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Governor Northam Allocates $1 Billion for the Chesapeake Bay

Governor Ralph Northam announced on Wednesday, December 16, 2021, that his two-year budget proposal will deliver historic funding for the Chesapeake Bay, clean water infrastructure, and conservation of the commonwealth’s natural resources. The proposal allocates more than $1 billion to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, along Virginia’s tidal tributaries, within the next four years.

“Virginia pledged to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to meet clean water goals by 2025,” said Northam in a prepared statement. “My budget will ensure that the commonwealth lives up to its commitment and restores the natural bounty of the Chesapeake Bay.”

The proposed budget will earmark almost $286 million to fully support the Virginia Natural Resources Commitment Fund, assisting farmers and landowners as they implement clean water and conservation practices.

“By assisting farmers and localities implementing our Bay clean-up plan, my budget supports the economic, public health, recreation, and quality of life benefits of a restored Bay for future generations,” said Northam.

Working in unison, the agriculture and conservation groups have championed for full funding of Virginia’s agriculture BMP cost share “needs assessment” – a data-driven, stakeholder-developed funding calculation. The cost share program supports various practices in conservation planning to treat cropland, pastureland, hay land and forested land. Funding will also provide technical support for farmers and landowners to implement methods of conservation.

The proposed budget dedicates $233.6 million to address the inequities in clean water accessibility by addressing outdated sewer systems and failing drainage systems. The proposal includes a $165 million investment that will be dedicated to the cities of Richmond, Lynchburg, and Alexandria and $68.6 million in funding for local municipal wastewater needs.

“Virginia is facing a 2025 deadline to meet Clean Water Act mandates for reducing pollution to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Ann Jennings. “This historic investment in the Bay responds to calls from coalitions of local government, business and conservation interests. With this funding, we know that a saved Bay is within reach and one that will benefit all Virginians.”

The proposal includes an additional $10 million for the Virginia Land Conservation and supports the conservation of forest and farmland through a $5 million investment to the Office of Farmland Preservation. The funding will address seedling shortages by re-establishing the New Kent Nursery, expanding the Urban and Community Forestry Program, and increasing tree-planting.

“Collaboration is key to ensuring the protection of the Chesapeake Bay and other important watersheds and lands across our great commonwealth,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “These bold investments in our farmland and forests in rural and urban areas, further demonstrate the critical role they play in protecting our environment, building healthier communities, and growing our economy.”

For the commonwealth, a restored Chesapeake Bay will generate more than $8 billion dollars each year in new economic value from improved commercial and recreational fishing, reduced drinking water treatment costs, resilience to climate change, and improved property values and quality of life in the region.

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