Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Goals

Public News Service

Report: Virginia Must Act Fast to Meet Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Goals

Diane Bernard

As a deadline looms to meet water cleanup goals for the Chesapeake Bay, a new report shows it is critical for Virginia to accelerate its work, or risk missing its pollution-reduction targets.

The Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint requires Virginia and other watershed states to have methods in place by 2025, but the report said the Commonwealth needs to do more to reduce farm and urban-suburban runoff pollution.

Peggy Sanner, Virginia executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which released the report, said despite bipartisan support, state lawmakers need to focus on farm conservation efforts, since agriculture is the state’s number one source of waterway pollution.

“Our farmers are committed to adopting effective conservation practices needed to protect water quality,” Sanner explained. “Yet Virginia has never supported our farmers adopting effective practices at the levels needed, and indeed, at the levels that are commensurate with farmers’ interests.”

But some environmental groups are concerned future cleanup efforts may face setbacks. This week, Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin nominated Andrew Wheeler as his secretary of natural resources. Wheeler was President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, who led a rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations.

Sanner noted a lack of investment in water-related infrastructure also continues to plague cities and counties. Many struggle with outdated storm-sewer systems, some of which let raw sewage flow into some of the state’s most important waterways, including the Potomac and James Rivers. But Sanner pointed out the Commonwealth has an unprecedented opportunity to address these issues.

“This year, there is sufficient money in the state’s important Water Quality Improvement Fund to fully support the needs of farmers,” Sanner contended. “Revenues are also available to assist localities to reduce storm water and sewage pollution to our streams in the Bay, without starving other necessary state programs.”

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program will receive an additional $47.6 million for the next five years, a more than 50% increase over past levels of federal support.

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