Virginia releases final roadmap for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay by 2025

A heron perches on rocks in the James River near Mayo's Island in Richmond. The river is one of many Virginia waterways that impact the Chesapeake Bay. (Sarah Vogelsong/The Virginia Mercury)

Another small step for Virginia, another leap forward for the Chesapeake Bay.

On Friday, Virginia, along with other states, released its final Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan, the roadmap for meeting its 2025 water quality goals for the bay.

The new version, which incorporates comments from the Environmental Protection Agency and local and state stakeholders, outlines more than 50 initiatives to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake and its tributaries.

Since the state released its draft plan in April, it has refined its proposals for wastewater upgrades and the promotion of agricultural best management practices, including fencing to exclude livestock from waterways and the use of nutrient management plans.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Assistant Director Peggy Sanner praised the final plan as having “lots of great ideas” but warned that “the key issue will be assurance that Virginia will appropriate adequate and reliable funding for these important programs.”

The foundation’s own calculations estimate that to meet the Phase III WIP’s goals, the state will need to dedicate about $235 million per year for the next five years, with other funding coming through cost-share programs.

In fiscal year that ends in June 2020, Virginia dedicated a record $73 million to its Agriculture Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program, which helps fund many of the strategies used to improve water quality in the bay watershed.

Bill Street, CEO of the James River Association, in a statement called it “absolutely critical that state leaders step up and provide the policies and funding that Virginia’s communities need to improve their local streams, James River and Chesapeake Bay.”