Saturday, December 14, 2013

Governor McDonnell Announces Clean Water Budget Investments

The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo
The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Continues Efforts to Improve Health of the Chesapeake Bay
Total investment in Water Quality During McDonnell Administration Exceeds $460 million

RICHMOND - Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that his upcoming biennial budget will include major funding aimed at continuing the administration’s efforts to improve water quality in Virginia’s rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.  The budget proposals includes investments and allocations for projects such as Chesapeake Bay restoration, pollution reduction efforts, storm water grants, oyster replenishment programs, funding for the Tangier Seawall and other water quality projects.  With this budget the McDonnell Administration has now invested more than $460 million in water quality projects over the course of the last four years.

  Speaking about the budget proposals, Governor McDonnell said, “As the Chesapeake Bay restoration program celebrates its 30thanniversary, improving the health of the Bay has been one of our most important environmental priorities. The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and an ecological wonder.  Over the past 30 years, the Chesapeake Bay Partnership has made immense progress in reducing nutrient pollution flows into the Chesapeake Bay.  As Virginians, we are committed to ensuring a clean and vibrant Chesapeake Bay for future generations to cherish.”

            Governor McDonnell continued, “Virginia’s magnificent waterways from the Cheseapeake Bay to the streams running through the Blue Ridge Mountains deserve preservation and protection. With this budget we are continuing our sustained commitment to improving water quality across the Commonwealth, and ensuring that the Chesapeake Bay remains a vibrant, healthy and beautiful Virginia treasure for generations to come.”

The introduced budget allocates over $31 million from the FY2013 budget surplus, generated by sound fiscal management and savings by state agencies and employees, to the Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF) to continue these essential programs:
·         $19.78 million will be used to continue pollution reductions activities in agricultural programs through the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR);
·         $800,000 will be used to support the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program;
·         $250,000 will be slated for implementation of forestry best management practices;
·         $100,000 will be used to implement best management practices on golf courses;
·         $6.59 million will be used to support nonpoint activities in the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), including stormwater projects, such as municipal separate stormwater sewer systems (MS4) and grants to local governments; and

·         $3.95 million will be deposited within the WQIF reserve fund.  

            In addition, the budget provides funds to the Department of Conservation and Recreation to support the development of Agricultural Resource Management Plans and to provide engineering support to Soil and Water Conservation Districts, as well as continuing $6.9 million annually to the districts for operational support funding.

            The budget also authorizes an additional $20.0 million of bonds through the Virginia Public Building Authority in FY 2016 to support the Local Stormwater Assistance Program created by the Administration last year.  These funds are intended to supplement the $35.0 million of bond funding authorized for the program by the 2013 General Assembly.

Additionally, the budget:
·         Continues $2.0 million of general fund support for oyster replenishment in both FY 2015 and FY 2016,
·         Provides funding for the Commonwealth’s estimated share of the Tangier Seawall project’s costs based on the most recent estimates provided by the Army Corp of Engineers.  The proposed budget provides $23,000 in FY 2015 and $6,000 in FY 2016.

·         Authorizes $1.0 million of bonds through the Virginia Public Building Authority in FY 2014 to assist the City of Alexandria with improvements to its Combined Sewer Overflow system.  

During the McDonnell Administration, over $440 million was invested in clean water efforts including;
·         More than $218 million deposited to the Water Quality Improvement Fund
·         $101 million water quality bond fund to improve wastewater treatment plants across the state
·         $35 million bond fund to establish the new stormwater local assistance fund
·         $75 million bond fund for improvement to the combined sewer overflow systems in Richmond and Lynchburg
·         $10 million to Hopewell and Appomattox for improvements to their waste water and drinking water systems
·         With the money included in this budget, $5 million will be invested in oyster restoration efforts.

Water Quality Accomplishments During McDonnell Administration
·         Virginia has reduced nitrogen pollution by 7.67 million pounds or 11.1%, phosphorus pollution by 0.68 million pounds or  7.7%, and sediment pollution by 262.0 million pounds or 6.9%
·         Phase I and II of Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan was developed and approved by the EPA.
·         The Governor signed legislation eliminating phosphorus from usable fertilizer beginning December 31, 2013.
·         The Governor signed legislation requiring golf courses to implement nutrient management plans by 2017.
·         The Governor signed legislation requiring VDACS to establish reporting requirements for contractor-applicators who apply fertilizer to more than 100 acres annually.
·         The Governor signed legislation allowing farmers who develop agriculture resource management plans to be deemed as being in full compliance with any load allocation contained in a TMDL.

·         Virginia received the EPA’s “Biggest Loser” Award in 2011 for reducing more non point source nitrogen than any other state in Region 3 and second in the nation. 
·         Virginia is exceeding its commitments under the Chesapeake Bay Program to reduce nutrients in the bay from wastewater treatment plants.  Major wastewater facilities in 2011 exceeded pollution reduction goals by more than 2,000% for nitrogen (7 million lbs/yr) and more than 450% for phosphorus (567,000 lbs/yr).  
·         Virginia expects to exceed our 2013 Bay milestones and is well on the way to meeting its commitments.
·         Virginia restored 1,653 acres of wetlands in 2011, more than double that of any other jurisdiction.
·         Virginia established a new fund to support stream exclusion efforts resulting in protecting over 75,000 linear feet or 14.2 miles of stream bank with livestock exclusion fence.  Over $18.6 million in state funds was dedicated to livestock exclusion.

·         Oyster harvest in 2012-2013 was 60% greater than in the previous harvest years increasing dock value to more than $16.2 million. The ripple effects through the economy from last year’s unexpectedly large oyster harvest resulted in an estimated $42.6 million in economic value.
·         The blue crab population reached its highest level in 20 years in 2012, and overfishing is no longer occurring.   The total population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay reached 764 million. This was a 66 percent increase above the 2011 abundance level and was the highest level recorded since 1993.
·         The bald eagle breeding population within the Virginia portion of the Bay now numbers over 800 pairs, a dramatic recovery for the estimated low of 20 pairs.  The Chesapeake Bay now supports the highest bald eagle chick growth rates and brood size of any population throughout the range.
·         The osprey breeding population within the Chesapeake Bay has recovered from 1,400 pairs in the early 1970s to more than 8,000 pairs today, with the Bay now supporting the largest breeding population of osprey in the world

·         The summer flounder stocks quadrupled under a stock rebuilding plan.  Recreational size limits were reduced, allowing anglers to keep more of the fish they catch.
·         Virginia improved and expanded the use of nutrient credits in Virginia.  Building on our existing nutrient credit trading program and will be a key tool in meeting and maintaining water quality in the Chesapeake Bay as well as offering flexibility in meeting nutrient reduction requirements statewide.
·         Virginia has around 780,000 acres under nutrient management inside the Bay and 950,000 statewide.
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