(RICHMOND, VA)—After floor votes on the budget by the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates late last week, legislators in Virginia’s General Assembly are on track to largely preserve investment in clean water programs and Chesapeake Bay restoration. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty, Virginia legislators are in a special session to reassess the budget passed early this year.
The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates voted on separate budget bills that propose the following levels of investment for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 in programs that benefit Virginia’s rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. No new budget will take effect until the chambers reconcile the differences between the two bills and Gov. Ralph Northam signs the resulting legislation. Highlights of the legislation include:
- Investments to continue upgrading sewage treatment plants—an as-yet unfinished story in Virginia—total $50 million in both the House and Senate budgets. This proposal does not change the appropriations made earlier this year.
- An investment of $50 million in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which helps localities reduce polluted runoff to waterways, in both the House and Senate budgets. This proposal also does not change the appropriated earlier this year.
- An investment of $18 million in oyster reef restoration and replenishment programs for watermen is continued in both the House and Senate budgets, unchanged from the level appropriated earlier this year.
- Virginia’s Agricultural Cost-Share and related programs, including technical assistance, support farmers in adopting conservation practices like stream fencing and nutrient management plans. Under the proposals of both chambers, these programs would receive at least $93 million over the biennium. The level appropriated earlier this year totaled approximately $95 million over the two-year period.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued this statement.
“Facing challenging times, legislators recognized that clean water is essential to our health, economy, and way of life in Virginia. From seafood to tourism to outdoor recreation, thousands of jobs across the Commonwealth depend on thriving waterways. Protecting the environment is important for all Virginians, including the many vulnerable communities that for too long have experienced health problems at higher rates because of disproportionate exposure to pollution.
“We are deeply grateful to our legislators and Governor Northam for their continued support for restoring our waterways. Their ongoing commitment is crucial for Virginia achieve to its Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint goals by the 2025 deadline.”