Includes significant long-term funding commitment for Ag BMPs, stormwater pollution controls
By Preston Bryant, VIRGINIAforever lobbyist
The 2019 General Assembly convenes on January 9 and is scheduled to adjourn on February 23. This is the so-called “short session,” where principal focus is often less on major policy changes on more on budget amendments.
Governor Northam has proposed budget amendments that significantly invest in natural resources. His focus is on water quality and land conservation.
Budget proposals to improve water quality include $90 million per year in each of the next five years for the agricultural best management practices (BMPs) cost-share program, technical staff assistance in implementing the BMPs, and other non-point source water quality programs, and $50 million per year for the next five years for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to assist local governments in planning and constructing stormwater control infrastructure. This amounts to nearly $775 million in state water quality improvements from FY2020 through FY2024.
It also should be noted that SLAF is a dollar-for-dollar match program. The proposed $250 million state investment will have to be matched by local governments, thus creating $500 million for stormwater infrastructure over the next five years.
Additionally, the Water Quality Improvement Fund received $73 million for point-source and certain other non-point source investments.
The governor also proposed $25 million in state financial assistance for the City of Alexandria’s combined sewer overflow project, which will dramatically reduce pollution into the Potomac River during heavy rainfall events.
The Virginia Land Conservation Foundation is slated to receive $5.5 million in FY2019 and $5.5 million in FY2020. VLCF will make $11 million in grants to preserve open-space lands, farmlands, forests, and historic properties.
VIRGINIAforever worked with Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring, as well as their key state agency directors, during 2018 to identify opportunities for strategic investments in water quality and land conservation.
Additionally, Governor Northam is proposing an additional $2.5 million in Department of Environmental Quality staffing to better regulate and enforce water quality standards.
VIRGINIAforever held its annual Budget Briefing on December 17 at McGuireWoods in downtown Richmond. The event included presentations by Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring, Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality David Paylor, Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Clyde Cristman, and Director of Finance and Planning for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Darin Moore. Many other agency representatives and state officials attended, in addition to VIRGINIAforever board members. Thank you to the presenters for a terrific funding overview and informative question and answer period.
VIRGINIAforever held its annual member meeting in December, which included officer elections and a membership update. Congratulations to Matt Wells of WestRock, who will assume the position of Secretary/Treasurer effective January 1. Many thanks to Pam Faggert of Dominion Energy for her service in this role. Also, congratulations to Kyle Shreve of the Virginia Agribusiness Council who will become an at-large member of the Leadership Committee. Dennis Treacy (chair), Kendall Tyree of the Virginia Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (vice chair) and Nikki Rovner (at-large) will each continue in their roles.
It was announced that we’re welcoming two new emeritus members – Bob Dunn, who is a past chair of VIRGINIAforever, and Henry Long, a past Secretary/Treasurer. They both served with distinction for many years on the executive board.
Additionally, the member development committee shared that the following joined the general board in 2018:
Interested in becoming a member of VIRGINIAforever? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this month, after Governor Northam announced proposed major investments to protect Virginia’s water quality, VIRGINIAforever issued the following statement of support:
VIRGINIAforever, an organization dedicated solely to advocating for increased state funds for water quality and land conservation, strongly applauds today’s announcement by Governor Ralph Northam, which includes the largest Bay-related proposed appropriation by a sitting Virginia Governor. This effort is welcome news, shows the true dedication of this administration to the environment, and is a significant first step towards our stated goal of increasing Virginia’s overall commitment to natural resources of less than 1 percent to more than 2 percent of the state budget.
VIRGINIAforever chairman Dennis Treacy asked that all VIRGINIAforever supporters join him in thanking the Governor and his administration for this strong commitment.
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