As the 2017 General Assembly Session comes to an end, we want to thank you for all of your help. Whether you joined us for Clean Water Lobby Day or reached out to your legislators during pivotal moments, you helped us to keep the issues affecting the James River front and center. Below is a final update on each of the key priorities for the James:
Priority One: Support Water Quality and Land Conservation Funding
This was a tough year for budget requests in Virginia, since legislators were facing a deficit to overcome. We believe that it is vital to keep Virginia on track with meeting river restoration goals that are part of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort and that continued investment is necessary. The final budget conference report did not include any stormwater funding and provided very limited land conservation funding. However, we are happy to report that some funding for agricultural clean water practices was provided for things like forested buffers, stream fencing, and cover crops. We were also encouraged that there will be a study to understand how to stabilize funding for these practices in the future.
Priority Two: Support Proper Coal Ash Pond Closure (Support Senate Bill 1398)
A groundswell of grassroots support helped Senators Surovell and Chase gain passage of Senate Bill 1398 which requires an investigation of coal ash pond contamination. The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. While there were some amendments made that weakened the bill, we nevertheless believe that the bill resulted in progress for the James. Importantly, we still need your help on this issue as we anticipate draft solid waste permits for the closure of coal ash ponds at the Bremo and Chesterfield Power Stations will be released within the next year. Please stay tuned for more to come on this issue!
Priority Three: Protecting Valuable Oyster Reefs (Oppose House Bill 1575)
Oysters in the James River and the Chesapeake Bay are rebounding due to restoration efforts and harvest restrictions to ensure the protection of vital stock. House Bill 1575 was proposed to allow dredging equipment to travel through oyster sanctuaries – thereby doing away with a restriction that has been in place for decades. It is important to maintain current protections and ensure no backsliding occurs, so the James River Association opposed this bill. With your help, we were successful in defeating this bill! As the oyster industry continues to grow on the James and in the Chesapeake Bay, it is likely that protections that are currently in place will continue to be threatened in the coming years. We will continue to stay engaged on this important issue!
Thank you for sharing your voice for James River issues at the Virginia General Assembly!
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