The 2016 General Assembly Session kicked off last week in Richmond. The James River Association is working hard to protect our river and watershed, but we need your help! Below are our key priorities for this session. Join our Action Network to stay up-to-date and involved in the coming weeks.

In order to reach the James River Association’s goals for a fully healthy James River and fulfill Virginia’s constitutional commitment to protect our waterways, we urge your support of the following critical actions:

Support Water Quality and Land Conservation Funding
Virginia has made significant investments in water quality and land conservation over the last two decades resulting in major pollution reductions and improvements to local water quality. In order to keep Virginia on track with meeting restoration goals for the James, continued investment is necessary. Therefore, we will be strongly supporting Water Quality and Land Conservation funding.

Support Proper Coal Ash Pond Closure (Senate Bill 537)
The James River watershed is home to coal ash ponds capable of holding five billion gallons of coal ash. Each pond in the watershed is bordering the river or one of its tributaries. Coal ash, which is a waste product of the electricity generation process, contains toxics such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Simply capping coal ash ponds in place without a liner, as currently proposed, does not stop the potential of groundwater contamination or pollution leaking in to surface waters. Every North Carolina pond that has been tested has been shown to be contaminating the surrounding groundwater. Despite this track record of contamination, Virginia’s code does not require lining, capping and long-term monitoring for these facilities. Senate Bill 537 would require that a liner be installed which will stop the potential for groundwater contamination and provide protection to Virginia’s waterways.  The bill also allows power generating companies to recover the costs for the safe closure of coal ash ponds.

Support Swifter Spill Notification (Senate Bill 581 & House Bill 977)
Current law requires the spill of a dangerous substance be reported within 24 hours to the Department of Environmental Quality. We believe that this timeline leaves our waterways, citizens and economy at risk. This bill accelerates that timeline to 12 hours which we believe enhances public notification and better protects us all.

Support Proper Menhaden Management (Senate Bill 98 & House Bill 150)
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. The menhaden fishery is also the only fishery in the Commonwealth that is currently managed by the General Assembly – all others are managed by experienced fishery professionals at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).  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).