Update: Progress for the James River in the General Assembly

February 8, 2017 · 2 minute read

The James River Association periodically sends out emails on their advocacy efforts in the General Assembly, and considering we’re about halfway through the current session, I figured we’re past due for an update.

Priority One: Support Water Quality and Land Conservation Funding

Background: Virginia has made significant investments in water quality and land conservation over the last two decades resulting in major pollution reductions and improvements to local water quality. In order to keep Virginia on track with meeting our restoration goals, continued investment is necessary.

Update: The House and Senate released their versions of the budget over the weekend. While we are disappointed that neither provided Stormwater funding and that very limited Land Conservation funding was included, we are happy to report that funding for Agricultural clean water practices was included by both. Over the next weeks, both the House and Senate will reach agreement on these two budgets. This funding helps determine whether the Commonwealth continues to make progress towards cleaner rivers and streams — or falls short on its goals.

Priority Two: Support Proper Coal Ash Pond Closure (Support Senate Bill 1398)

Background: The James River watershed is home to coal ash ponds capable of holding five billion gallons of coal ash. Each pond in the watershed is adjacent to the river or one of its tributaries. Coal ash, which is a waste product of the electricity generation process, contains arsenic, lead and mercury among other toxins. Virginia’s code does not require utilities to demonstrate that their coal ash ponds are not contaminating surface and groundwater prior to the issuance of solid waste permit for their closure. We must ensure that these ponds are properly evaluated and are not closed in the midst of on-going contamination.

Update: This bill spurred great conversation about the closure of coal ash ponds with Virginia legislators. We were successful in conveying the urgency of this subject to the Senate and the bill has now crossed over to the House.

Priority Three: Protecting Valuable Oyster Reefs (Oppose House Bill 1575)

Background: Did you know that oysters have been around for 15 million years? Oysters in the James River are rebounding due to restoration efforts and harvest restrictions to ensure the protection of vital stock. This bill proposes to allow dredging equipment to travel through oyster sanctuaries – a law that has been in place for decades. It is important to maintain current protections and ensure no backsliding occurs.

Update: Thanks to your help, we were successful in defeating this attempt. Rather than rolling back current protections in State Code, our oyster sanctuaries will continue to be protected from dredging equipment.