Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin yesterday signed a two-year state budget that provides historic levels of investment in farm conservation practices and other programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
This bipartisan budget includes funding crucial to meeting Virginia’s commitment in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint to ensure the necessary water quality practices are in place by 2025. The final budget includes the following funding levels for clean water programs:
- The Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share and related programs: The new appropriations will, for the first time ever, provide full support over two years for programs that assist farmers who adopt conservation practices. The investments include approximately $280 million to the Natural Resources Commitment Fund, as well as $15.9 million in a reserve account that could be applied to the third year. An additional $40.6 million supports effective conservation practices in forest and stormwater management, and other programs to reduce pollution from nonpoint sources.
- The Stormwater Local Assistance Fund will receive $25 million over the two-year period. This program provides state grants to localities and others for projects that reduce polluted runoff from cities and suburbs.
- Outdated Combined Sewer System (CSS) modernization will receive a total of $165 million ($100 million for Richmond, $40 million for Alexandria, and $25 million for Lynchburg) to stop the flow of raw sewage into the James and Potomac rivers after heavy rainfalls.
- Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades. Sewage treatment facilities in communities across the Commonwealth will receive approximately $70 million for upgrades that reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.
- Environmental Education efforts will receive $700,000 for coordination of statewide environmental literacy initiatives, as well as $500,000 for grants to programs that provide students with Chesapeake Bay meaningful watershed educational experiences.
- Mussel restoration will receive $400,000 to assist the Department of Wildlife Resources in restoration and protection of Virginia’s many freshwater mussel species. Freshwater mussels filter and clean water in streams, yet Virginia’s mussels are increasingly threatened by pollution and loss of habitat.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued the following statement:
“We applaud Governor Youngkin for his support of these historic Bay restoration investments, renewing Virginia’s commitment to healthy rivers, streams, and Chesapeake Bay.
“Much of Virginia’s progress to date in cleaning up our waterways is a result of the Commonwealth’s steady support for upgrading sewage treatment plants. Making a similar commitment to supporting farmers’ efforts to reduce pollution from farmlands is the next essential step. This budget shows Virginia is serious about meeting that challenge.
“We thank Governor Youngkin and our state legislators for the commitment to clean water reflected in this budget, which demonstrates that Virginia remains a regional leader in Chesapeake Bay restoration.”