One of the pillars of our work at Friends of the Rappahannock is our Advocacy Program. Since 1985, our organization has been working to ensure a healthy and scenic Rappahannock River. Today our work spans all or parts of 18 counties that make up the Rappahannock River watershed as well as trips to the state capitol in Richmond and to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The issues vary from year to year but the theme is consistent – advocate for strong environmental policy that works to enhance the Rappahannock River watershed and fight against legislation and policies that would threaten, weaken, or remove existing protections, programs, and funding that positively impact the Rappahannock River watershed and the surrounding communities.
At the local level we track development projects, local ordinances, comprehensive plans, and a myriad of other community scale issues. Often times this involves a sub-watershed approach or a parcel scale assessment.
- We are currently working with Fauquier County and other partners to increase public access to the Rappahannock River through the development of an upper Rappahannock River water trail.
- We continue to be engaged with the development of properties on Fones Cliff in Richmond County.
- We continue to work with individual counties in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula on policy language that installs strong protections for local waterways from fracking.
At the state level we are engaged in a wide range of programs and initiatives focused at the general assembly, Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), Department of Transportation (VDOT), Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and more.
- Each year we contribute to the Virginia Conservation Network’s Environmental Briefing Book and participate in their Conservation Lobby Day in the spring. We will send out an invitation to join us for the 2019 lobby day early in the new year.
- Our Healthy Rivers Initiative is a partnership with James River Association and Potomac Conservancy to jointly advocate for state funding for agricultural best management practice programs, the Stormwater local assistance fund (SLAF), Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP), and the state Water Quality Revolving Fund
- We are working with DCR and VDOT on a large scale effort to restore an eroding shoreline at Belle Isle State Park
At the federal level we focus the majority of our efforts on ensuring the Department of Interior’s appropriation’s bill includes strong funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program which is a joint effort between many federal agencies to restore the Chesapeake Bay and address the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
- Both the House and Senate current versions of the Interior Appropriations Bill includes $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program which is level with previous year’s funding and is consistent with the requests of the conservation community. This also includes specific allocations for the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund grants managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
- The 2018 Farm Bill is currently being reviewed for renewal and we are working with our partners at the Choose Clean Water Coalition to ensure the new bill includes strong funding for conservation practices that are vital to the restoration of our region.
- We are working with the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop restoration projects to improve coastal shorelines, estuarine habitats, and headwater streams.
- We joined several partner organizations in litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure they did not remove important protections from the Clean Water Act. This suit is focused on the suspension of the 2015 Clean Water Rule and a South Carolina District Court ruled in favor of our coalition which allowed the rule to take effect and ensure our waterways are protected. This suit is ongoing.
We are dedicated to continuing to work with our members, partners, and elected officials at all levels of government to ensure strong protections and funding for water quality and be the voice and active force for a healthy and scenic Rappahannock River.
Here are several white papers published in the 2019 Environmental Briefing Book that provide background information on issues we will be working on in the 2019 general assembly.