FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, June 2, 2022
Assistant Director of Policy & Government Affairs
James River Association Applauds Historic State Funding for a Restored James River
On Wednesday, Virginia’s General Assembly approved a new two-year state budget with historic funding for important initiatives that will improve the health and vitality of the James River. The budget compromise, which now heads to the Governor for consideration, includes consequential levels of funding for long-standing clean water priorities as well as for new initiatives essential to a thriving James.
- HB30 fully funds the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share (VACS) Program, a first for the program, which provides technical and financial support to farmers for conservation practices that protect their local streams and waterways. JRA’s 2021 State of the James Report found that Virginia has achieved 59% of its goal for reducing agricultural runoff to the James River with only 4 years remaining until the 2025 deadline for the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan. Full funding for the VACS Program will help engage more farmers with practices that reduce nutrient runoff while keeping agricultural soils on their fields and out of the James River.
- HB30 includes $165 million for addressing overflows from Virginia’s combined sewer systems, including $100 million for the City of Richmond and $25 million for the City of Lynchburg. JRA advocated for a clear, practical, and reliable timeline to complete the extensive work needed to prevent Richmond’s combined sewer system from sending sewage-laden stormwater into the James River during storm events. With a deadline of 2035 and an estimated cost of over $1.3 billion, the City of Richmond will need state and federal support to deliver on its promise of cleaner water for River City residents.
- HB30 provides $290,000 to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to develop an emergency recovery plan for American shad in the James River. The 2021 State of the James Report warned that American shad, often called America’s founding fish, are on the brink of collapse within the James, scoring a first-ever score of 0%. Decimated by a multitude of threats as they journey upstream to spawn, the shad population has reached an all-time low, and emergency action is needed to restore this storied species to the James.
- HB30 invests $380,000 in drinking water and environmental testing to identify potential contamination by toxic “forever chemicals.” Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are man-made chemicals that persist in the environment. Human exposure to these chemicals through contaminated water, foods, or products have been linked to troubling health conditions including high cholesterol, thyroid toxicity, increased risk of cancer, and preeclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy. Identifying potential contamination pathways through testing is key to protecting our water and our bodies from the harmful impacts of these chemicals.
Bill Street, President and Chief Executive Officer of the James River Association, released the following statement:
“We are at a crucial moment in the work to restore the James River and return America’s founding fish to its founding river. We need a science-backed plan with coordinated actions that will bring American shad back from the brink of collapse in the James. The General Assembly’s actions this week show that clear, accountable plans drive change. The urgency of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Cleanup plan has spurred robust investment in Virginia’s farmers and the conservation practices that will protect their soils and streams. Richmond’s combined sewer overflow plan has renewed state and federal attention on the immediate needs of the city’s aging water infrastructure. If signed into law, this budget, and the resources it brings to communities throughout our watershed, will move us closer to a healthy, Grade-A James River.”
ABOUT THE JAMES RIVER ASSOCIATION: The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. The James River Association believes that “when you change the James, the James changes you”. With offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Scottsville, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information visit www.thejamesriver.org.