NOTE: Additional Virginia budget information has become available since the CBF release originally sent Sunday evening. The below statement updates budget numbers provided in that release.
In separate budgets bills released this Sunday, the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates advanced proposals to fund state operations over the next two years. Both proposals provided unprecedented funding for programs to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay in recognition of the looming 2025 deadline to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals, including the following:
- Virginia’s Agricultural Cost-Share (VACS) and related programs that support farmers who adopt conservation practices are fully funded in the House budget for the next two years at $256.56 million, with an additional $15.9 million in a reserve fund that could be applied to the third year. The Senate budget provides $230 million for these programs over the biennium, with a substantially larger allocation, $38.5 million, to the reserve fund.
- Additional amounts, $40.6 million in the House and $44.6 million in the Senate, are proposed for related agriculture, forestry, and other programs that reduce pollution from nonpoint sources. This unprecedented funding promises to ensure a substantial boost in Virginia’s efforts to achieve its Chesapeake Bay restoration goals by 2025, bringing about clean water across the Commonwealth.
- The Stormwater Local Assistance Fund would receive $50 million in the Senate budget and $25 million in the House budget. This program provides matching grants to local governments for projects that reduce polluted runoff from cities and suburbs.
- Closing Outdated Combined Sewer Systems (CSOs) would receive a total of $165 million in the Senate proposal ($100 million for Richmond, $40 million for Alexandria, and $25 million for Lynchburg). The House budget proposes a total of $62.5 million ($50 million for Richmond and $12.5 million for Lynchburg). These funds would be used to stop the flow of raw sewage into the James and Potomac rivers in times of high precipitation.
- Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades would receive $69 million in the Senate budget and $71.9 million in the House budget. These funds provide grants to help upgrade sewage treatment facilities in a number of communities across Virginia, which will reduce the nutrient and sediment pollution that causes dead zones in our rivers and the Bay, while protecting ratepayers from high costs.
- Environmental Literacy would receive $600,000 in the House budget and $700,000 in the Senate budget for new staffing to coordinate statewide environmental literacy efforts.
- Mussel restoration would receive $400,000 from the Senate budget to develop and implement a program to restore and protect Virginia’s many freshwater mussel species. These creatures, which filter water in streams, include many rare species increasingly threatened by loss of habitat.
- Fisheries management at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission would receive $146,000 for a new fisheries observer staffer to assist in fishery management decisions.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner issued the following statement.
“State legislators from both parties in the House of Delegates and the Senate unveiled budgets that provide historic support for Chesapeake Bay restoration through effective water quality programs, especially for long under-funded farm conservation practices.
“With these proposals, Virginia has recommitted to achieving its 2025 goals for restoration of the Bay and its tributaries, providing leadership for water quality restoration in the region. We urge legislators to bring these thoughtful proposals to fruition in an approved budget that will protect natural resources for all Virginians.”
# # #