For Bay Daily readers in the Virginia part of the Bay watershed, here’s a quick update on a few good, bad, and ugly Chesapeake Bay bills now being considered by the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond.
Two good bills (SB 1291 and HB 2254) that bring the Old Dominion into compliance with a coast-wide Atlantic menhaden management plan continue to make their way through the legislature without opposition. Success of the Virginia legislation is critical to the success of menhaden conservation efforts up and down the East Coast and to avoid possible sanctions, including shutdown of all menhaden fishing in the state, for noncompliance.
The bills will reduce annual harvests of menhaden by 20 percent as a first step toward rebuilding the severely diminished menhaden population. Most Atlantic menhaden (80 percent of the annual harvest) are caught and landed in Virginia by Omega Protein Corp. in Reedville, which processes the fish into oil and meal. The fish are also caught and used as bait by crabbers and lobstermen.
Besides their commercial value, menhaden are a critical food source for important Chesapeake Bay finfish, birds, and marine animals. For more about this important legislation, click here.
Another Bay-friendly budget proposal alive in the legislature proposes $2.5 million for expanded oyster replenishment efforts in Virginia. The funding would help the return of oysters to the Bay and boost Virginia’s economy.
A bad bill (SB 926) threatens Virginia tidal wetlands by exempting more government activities (such as road building and dredging) from review by local wetlands boards in the Eastern part of Virginia. That would not only weaken wetland protections but also reduce public participation and local citizen oversight of these vital natural resources.
Another bad bill (HB 1488) would allow Virginia localities to delay for a year establishing local stormwater management programs to reduce polluted runoff, one of the most serious problems plaguing local streams, rivers, and the Bay. If successful, the delay would significantly derail efforts under way by Virginia and localities to meet state clean water and Chesapeake Bay milestones and jeopardize ongoing stormwater permitting and funding efforts.
A really ugly bill (SB 1321) seeks to change state law and spend state budget surplus funds on transportation projects. While additional money for transportation is certainly needed in Virginia, this bill would eliminate automatic deposits to the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Fund, one of the only delegated state funding sources specifically for clean water projects. Roads, rail, and transit are important but not at the expense of clean streams, rivers, and bays.
If you’d like to help fight these bad and ugly bills by talking directly to your legislator, consider attending the Virginia Conservation Network’s Conservation Lobby Day on Monday, Jan. 28. To register, click here.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Photos: Top two, CBF; aerial of wastewater plant, iLCP; bottom, iStock.