Virginia legislators in the General Assembly today approved a budget to fund the state government over the next two years that provides historic levels of investment in programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
The funding proposed in this bipartisan budget is urgently needed to meet Virginia’s commitments to reduce pollution to waterways under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The budget proposes the following levels of investment in clean water programs:
- The Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share program, and related programs supporting farmers who adopt conservation practices. For the first time ever, this program is fully funded for the next two years. The proposed investments include approximately $280 million in deposits 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 would support effective conservation practices in agriculture and forest management and other programs to reduce pollution from nonpoint sources.
- The Stormwater Local Assistance Fund would receive $25 million. This program provides state grants to localities and others for projects that reduce polluted runoff from cities and suburbs.
- Outdated Combined Sewer System (CSOs) modernization would receive a total of $165 million ($100 million for Richmond, $40 million for Alexandria, and $25 million for Lynchburg). These funds would be used 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 would receive approximately $70 million for upgrades, which help reduce the nutrient and sediment pollution that causes dead zones in rivers and the Bay while protecting ratepayers from high costs.
- Environmental Education efforts would receive $700,000 for coordination of statewide environmental literacy initiatives, as well as $500,000 in grants to provide students with Chesapeake Bay meaningful watershed educational experiences.
- Mussel restoration would 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:
“As Virginia works to meet its Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint commitments, this budget provides bipartisan support for programs that reduce pollution to local rivers and streams. The historic funding to agriculture programs will support farmers adopting effective and much-needed measures–- including streamside fencing and forested buffers that keep fertilizers and soils on the ground and out of our waterways, including the Bay.
“We congratulate and thank legislators for the bipartisan accord on conservation funding reflected in this budget. With this agreement, Virginia signals its role as a regional leader in clean water efforts and recommits to achieving our long-term goal of Chesapeake Bay restoration
“We look forward to Governor Youngkin signing into law these historic investments in our waterways.”
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