Daily Press just yesterday.
The candidates for governor have all made creating more Virginia jobs and improving our economy large planks in their campaign platforms. There is perhaps no better region than Tidewater where our next governor can achieve those goals and at the same time save the Chesapeake Bay.
In 2010, after decades of hard work but missed restoration deadlines and commitments, Virginia, her Bay state partners, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to establish strict pollution targets and deadlines aimed at restoring the Bay, and consequently the Bay's economy, by 2025.
To keep on schedule, Virginia committed to achieving 60 percent of the necessary work by 2017—the end of the next governor's term in office. The new governor, whoever he may be, can build on the accomplishments of prior administrations, including those of Gov. McDonnell, to meet the 60 percent goal. But he will have to chart a much more aggressive agenda, especially to reduce runoff from farms and city streets, two of the Bay's most serious water pollution problems.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has identified five critical actions the next governor must take to ensure Virginia stays on track to meet its Bay cleanup commitments. The five actions are measurable, aggressive, but achievable and will advance restoration of the Bay and our local rivers. They also will help restore the once-mighty economic benefits provided by the Bay for the Tidewater region and beyond. I encourage readers to share them with all of the gubernatorial candidates.
The five actions are:
• Reducing farm runoff pollution — Agriculture, Virginia's largest land use, remains the largest source of Bay pollution. Virginia must fully fund and effectively manage the state's conservation cost-share program to help farmers reduce runoff and meet pollution reduction commitments. Should Virginia fail to achieve its specific commitments for reducing farm runoff, the state must proceed with its plan to mandate certain best practices, such as fencing to exclude livestock from streams.
• Helping localities reduce urban runoff pollution — Pollution running off streets, parking lots, and rooftops is increasing and threatens to overwhelm past cleanup progress. Virginia should establish a dedicated matching grant fund to help cities and towns better manage runoff pollution. The grants should incentivize innovative and cost-effective practices, require localities to meet their five-year runoff reduction requirements, and foster job creation.
• Boosting oysters and the oyster fishery — Oysters filter Bay water, and oyster reefs provide food and homes for many marine creatures. Overharvesting, pollution, and disease decimated Bay oysters, but recently oysters have shown signs of recovery. The oyster industry once supported thousands of jobs and added millions to the state's economy; oysters can do so again. The state should commit to fully restoring oysters in three Virginia rivers and to sustainably growing the state's oyster harvest to 500,000 bushels a year using science-based management and robust enforcement.
• Restoring menhaden — Atlantic menhaden have been called "the most important fish in the sea" because of their essential role in the diets of fish, birds, and marine mammals. Menhaden also are harvested for bait and for an industry in Reedville that converts menhaden into oil and other products, providing hundreds of jobs. Menhaden numbers, however, have plummeted to record lows. In four years Virginia must achieve the population target currently established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
• Ensuring today's students, Virginia's next generation of leaders, are environmentally literate. The next governor should establish a commission dedicated to ensuring all Virginia students graduate environmentally literate and prepared to address the complex environmental challenges they will face as future citizens, parents, voters, and leaders.
Virginia has an excellent plan in place to reduce pollution and restore clean water to the Bay and its many rivers and streams, and in turn help bolster Virginia's economy. The plan is called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, and the Commonwealth already has made much progress toward its implementation.
But to keep moving forward, Virginia's new leaders—indeed, all of us—must redouble efforts to reduce pollution in runoff from farms and city streets, from sewage wastewater, and even from the fertilizers we put on our lawns and gardens. It's going to take all of us working together to succeed, but a saved Bay is within our reach. Let the candidates know failure is not an option—for Virginia, our economy, and our children's future.
—Ann F. Jennings
CBF Virginia Executive Director