As Virginia legislators consider the budget for the next two fiscal years, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) urges support for many important clean water initiatives.
Chief among these priorities are appropriations to programs necessary to meet Bay restoration commitments by the 2025 deadline. The major water quality investments proposed in the introduced budget should be adopted, including $286 million for Virginia’s Agricultural Cost-Share program and related technical assistance, which would fully fund farmers’ conservation needs for the biennium; $100 million to help localities reduce polluted runoff through the Virginia Stormwater Local Assistance Fund; $69 million to continue upgrading wastewater treatment plants; and $165 million for closing outdated combined sewer systems in Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg,
CBF also asks legislators to consider several related budget amendments that support Virginia’s hardworking filter feeders, oysters and freshwater mussels, as well as ensure Virginia students across the Commonwealth have the opportunity to participate in meaningful environmental education.
Key amendments to Virginia’s proposed two-year budget include:
Freshwater Mussel Restoration (Sen. Creigh Deeds) - This proposal would provide $400,000 over two years to support the work of Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources scientists in coordinating a statewide freshwater mussel restoration strategy. Freshwater mussels play an important role in healthy rivers and streams. A single mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water a day, reducing pollutants such as nitrogen. But mussel populations, including many of Virginia’s 80 native species, are declining dramatically across the country. Virginia’s mussel restoration efforts sorely need investment.
Oyster Restoration and Fisheries (Sen. Lynwood Lewis and Del. Tim Anderson) - These proposals would provide $234,000 over two years to enhance the work of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission in assessing Virginia’s oyster population. This would help determine the restoration locations and approaches that have been most successful and inform future restoration and fishery management decisions.
Environmental Education (Sen. Emmett Hanger and Del. Robert Orrock) - These budget proposals would provide up to $700,000 over two years to coordinate statewide environmental education, including advancing Virginia’s STEM efforts and building a workforce ready for future jobs. Environmental education combines disciplines to build high-level thinking and problem-solving skills. Severe budget constraints several years ago eliminated all staff in the Virginia Office of Environmental Education, leaving no one at the state level to coordinate these efforts.
CBF Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued the following statement.
“Virginia’s ample state revenues are providing an unprecedented opportunity to meet longstanding Chesapeake Bay restoration goals by 2025. We urge legislators to seize this opportunity to provide the resources to the key programs, especially Virginia’s Agriculture Cost-Share program, that will restore and protect the Bay, an irreplaceable treasure.”
“Freshwater mussels are a little-known but integral part of Virginia’s natural heritage, yet they are disappearing before we fully understand their many benefits to clean water and healthy rivers. We ask our leaders to support the restoration of Virginia’s freshwater filter feeders before they are lost.
“The Virginia oyster is coming back from the brink thanks to smart fishery management, a growing commercial aquaculture industry, and investment in oyster reef restoration. An assessment the current state of Virginia’s oyster population will better inform future fisheries management and oyster restoration work, an important next step in the oyster’s recovery.
“Environmental education has innumerable benefits for students, including building critical thinking and problem solving. This year we have the opportunity to invest in the leaders of tomorrow by creating state positions dedicated to facilitating environmental education across the Commonwealth.”
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