State investments in clean water programs are a critical driver to improved health for the James River as shown through the 2023 State of the James report issued by the James River Association.  Therefore, the state budget is one of the very highest priorities for JRA’s river advocacy.

Throughout 2023 and during the 2024 General Assembly, JRA has worked closely with key stakeholder groups, conservation-minded legislators, and the Governor’s Administration to put forward natural resources priorities. Last week, the appropriations committees of the General Assembly reported their amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget. After carefully examining both the House and Senate versions, JRA is encouraged that both chambers continue to make significant investments in natural resources.

Notably, top JRA priorities including over $200 million to fully meet the need for Agricultural Best Management Practices, and $50M for the Richmond Combined Sewer Overflow Project were retained in both chambers. In addition, JRA was pleased to see $5 million in funding for Oyster Replenishment and Mussel Restoration, both cost-effective water quality improvement projects, likewise retained. 

In addition to these conservation funding items that were retained in both budgets, JRA was also pleased to see the adoption of key amendments in the House budget of $400 million for wastewater treatment plant upgrades, $20 million to establish a pay-for-outcomes pilot program for nonpoint source pollution reduction, and $1 million in funding for the harvesting and control of blue catfish. Additionally, the House added funding related to JRA-supported legislation regarding hazardous substance discharge, waste tires, and PFAS.

While not all of JRA’s prioritized budget amendments made it into the adopted amendments, JRA would like to thank the over 300 members who reached out to their legislators to raise awareness of watershed issues.  Hearing directly from constituents is the most powerful way to encourage legislators to take action to improve the James River.