The 2016 General Assembly session has officially begun and all of your legislators are getting busy in Richmond. Friends of the Rappahannock is working hard to ensure the protection of our River and watershed. We are tracking a wide range of bills and working with partners to ensure the proposed budget includes necessary funding for water related programs.
SUPPORT A CONSERVATION MINDED STATE BUDGET
Funding for Agricultural Best Management Practices
Virginia has committed to meet our obligations for reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay primarily through voluntary measures. Installing Best Management Practices (BMPs), such as streamside buffers and rain gardens, are cost-effective measures the Commonwealth can take to improve local water quality and meet its obligations for the Chesapeake Bay. As well, these measures stimulate the economy with the investment in our farms and municipalities, providing much-needed employment. Significant funding is in the budget for Agricultural BMPs. But funding for stormwater BMPs is limited. Needs for Agricultural BMPs in 2016 are roughly $82 million based on existing requests for the program, however, the proposed budget includes roughly $61 million. We expect need for 2017 to be in excess of $86 million.
Message: We support the BMP funding currently in the budget and request an additional $20 million for 2017 and $86 million for 2018 for Agricultural BMPs.
Funding for Land Conservation
HB 1398, introduced by Lee Ware ( R), was passed in 2013 and provided a mechanism for meaningful and consistent grant funding for localities, state agencies, and/or non-profit organizations to acquire land or conservation easements. Unfortunately, despite the passage of HB 1398, the funding has not been included in the budget until this year’s proposal. The funding is to be distributed through three existing programs, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), the Office of Farmland Preservation, and the Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. $20 million per year is to be dispersed in the following manner – $16 million for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), $2 million for the Office of Farmland Preservation and $2 million for the Civil War Sites Preservation Fund.
Message: Funding is already in the Governor’s budget. We support full funding of the grant programs – $20M each year for two years.
Funding for Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF)
Reducing polluted runoff from our streets and parking lots — stormwater –is one area where the budget falls short. Although we support the existing budget, funding to help localities reduce polluted runoff is paramount to meet our obligations for clean water and a clean Chesapeake Bay.
Message: We support an additional $50 million each year for the next two years for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF). We support multiple requests for amendments that have been submitted.
PROTECT CLEAN WATER FOR THE RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER AND CHESAPEAKE BAY
Plastic and Litter Pollution
Single-use plastic bags are among the leading pieces of litter reported in River Cleanup events nationwide and are devastating to ecosystems. These bags will NEVER fully biodegrade and are a constant source of pollution to our Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. This legislation is NOT a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. We recognize that different municipalities and regions of the Commonwealth are different and have different community needs and priorities and because the Commonwealth is a Dillon Rule state, local municipalities require the General Assembly first provide permission to implement various local regulations and ordinances. This legislation would provide interested localities with the ability to protect their streams, rivers, and other natural resources from plastic bag pollution.
We support this bill because it would provide local municipalities the option to ban single-use plastic bags which would protect the health of the Rappahannock River.
Stormwater, Nutrients, and TMDL
The Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay is subject to a TMDL for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Sediments. These pollutant sources originate from three primary areas: agricultural runoff, wastewater treatment plants, and urban stormwater runoff. Of these three source sectors, stormwater runoff is the only sector that has growing levels of pollution. Additionally, curbing pollution from urban stormwater runoff is by far the most expensive. It is imperative that we continue to work with our regulators, local governments, and elected officials to incentivize the innovation and management of nutrient loads and stormwater runoff through robust policies that protect our water resources.
We support this bill because it gives DCR, DEQ, and VA Soil and Water Conservation board the authority to determine acceptable application rates of phosphorus to lands for the use of fertilizer, animal manure, poultry waste, sewage sludge, and industrial sludge to protect water quality.
We support this bill because it authorizes permitted MS4 municipalities to acquire and use sediment reduction credits as part of a compliance strategy for implementing their requirements under Chesapeake Bay TMDL. All credits traded must be from the same tributary.
We support this bill because it establishes the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) as an independent program which provides matching grants to local governments for the planning, design, and construction of stormwater best management practices which protect water quality.
We do not support this bill because it would exempt large areas of impervious surfaces from contributing much needed revenues to the local government responsible for managing polluted stormwater runoff and protecting water quality.
We support this bill because it incentivizes and awards property owners that install, operate, and properly maintain nutrient-reducing stormwater best management practices on their property by exempting them from applicable stormwater utility fees.
We support this bill because it directs localities with stormwater utility fees to assist the owners of stormwater best management practices that manage stormwater runoff from off-site, upstream sources owned by other entities.
We do not support this bill because it constitutes backsliding from regulations passed by the general assemebly and would reduce the effectiveness of the Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) and weaken protections to the Rappahannock River and other waterways throughout the Commonwealth.
We support this bill because it would provide additional opportunities for TDML credits through dredging waterways to remove nutrients and sediments. If approved by the Chesapeake Bay program, credits would be generated similar to street sweeping.
Toxics and Coal Ash
The Rappahannock River watershed is home to a vast array of businesses, industry, and development that has an impact on the River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Unlike many other regions of the Chesapeake Bay, we currently do not have large plants or issues with toxic substances or pollution resulting from energy development. We are continuing to work with state regulators and local municipalities to ensure the maximum protection of the Rappahannock River, its tributaries, and groundwater resources from the impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing. Our partners across the state are currently fighting to protect their watersheds which drain to the Chesapeake Bay through increased regulation of toxic substances and adoption of regulations that ensure the proper closure of coal ash ponds.
We support this bill because it provides better protections for our water resources by requiring anyone who unlawfully discharges any deleterious substance into state waters to notify the appropriate authority within 12 hours. Current law provides 24 hours to notify authorities.
We support this bill because it directs DEQ to inventory all nonfederally managed toxic waste sites in the Commonwealth and publish the inventory. Currently, there is no public inventory of these sites.
We support this bill because it raises the civil penalties threshold issued by DEQ from $10,000 up to $25,000.
We support this bill because it directs DEQ to require the closure of surface impoundments of coal combustion by-products, commonly called coal ash ponds which pose a significant threat to water resources throughout Virginia. Additionally, it requires the use of waterproof liners when capping a pond and allows for the power generating companies to recover the costs associated with the safe closure of the ponds.
Companion bill for HB 977
SUPPORT PROPER MANAGEMENT OF OUR FISHERIES
Menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea.” Menhaden are both filter feeders and a primary food source for striped bass (rockfish), bluefish, sharks, ospreys, brown pelicans, and dolphin. Beyond its ecological importance, the menhaden fishery is very important economically to the Commonwealth, supporting hundreds of jobs throughout the Commonwealth and right here in the Rappahannock River watershed. The menhaden fishery is also the only fishery in the Commonwealth that is currently managed by the General Assembly – other important fisheries like oysters, blue crabs, ans striped bass are managed by experienced fishery professionals at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). The Rappahannock River is home to a enormous variety of fish and wildlife which sustain a healthy seafood industry and we support all efforts to protect and ensure the long term sustainability of the industry, ecosystems, and the fisheries they support.
We support this bill because it transfers management of the menhaden fishery from the General Assembly to the fishery professionals at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).
We support this bill because it protects the shorelines and shallows of the Rappahannock River from potential discharges associated with commercial Menhaden fishing.
We support this bill because it clarifies the classification of commercially harvested wild fish and shell fish as “agricultural products” which makes them eligible for support from grant funding through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund
This is the companion bill to HB 150.
We support this bill because it provides regulations that protect sea turtles from licensed crab pots.
SUPPORT TIDAL RESTORATION PROGRAMS
We support this bill because it provides additional incentives for shoreline restoration using Living Shoreline practices.
We support this bill because it expedites the permit process for emergency beach and shoreline restoration.
We support this bill because it provides a low-interest loan program to assist with flood mitigation, shoreline restoration, and shoreline resiliency
If you would like additional information about a specific bill or budget item please feel free to contact Programs Manager Bryan Hofmann at 540-373-3448 ext 112 or Bryan.Hofmann@riverfriends.org
Our partners at Virginia Conservaiton Network have an excellent Environmental Briefing Book that outlines “our common agenda” for the 2016 legislative session.