Augusta Free Press

EPA: Chesapeake Bay clean-up progressing in Virginia

A 2014-2015 interim report card on efforts by Virginia farmers to reduce pollutants reaching the Chesapeake Bay found producers are “generally on-track for meeting programmatic milestones” in a multi-year effort.

The report, prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “notes that many farmers are taking the steps required to reduce soil erosion and runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous,” said Wilmer Stoneman, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation associate director of governmental relations.

“Farmers have said all along that there’s no quick and easy fix to bay restoration. We’re pleased to hear that we’re on track to make that a reality.”

The Interim Evaluation of Virginia’s 2014-2015 Milestones and WIP Progress was published June 10. WIP stands for watershed implementation plan, a specific set of conservation improvements and benchmarks established for each watershed in the state by the EPA under the overall Chesapeake Bay Program partnership.

Conservation efforts in different sectors are being tracked by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which supplied the numbers to the EPA for evaluation. They include activities related to agriculture, urban and suburban storm water, wastewater treatment plants and nutrient-reduction credit efforts. The EPA found that farmers are currently on track for reaching the overall 2017 target for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff by 60 percent compared to levels measured in 2009.

“Virginia farmers are doing well in implementing best management practices to reduce erosion and pollutants, although the report said additional BMP steps may be needed in the future,” Stoneman said. “It also noted that the state of Virginia has committed or spent almost $25 million in the bay watershed since 2012 to help farmers install fencing to keep cattle out of waterways.

“Farmers are grateful for the assistance, but much more cost-share funding will be needed in order to continue with this good progress. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fence some properties—money that many producers just don’t have available to spend.”

The report noted that Virginia is expected to have 274 individual farm Resource Management Plans developed by the end of this year, well above the goal of 40 plans. The voluntary RMP program was introduced last year and entails plans developed by professional nutrient management specialists for participating farms.

“Farmers are eager to do their part to clean up the bay under voluntary programs like RMPs,” Stoneman said, “but we need the additional staff and financial resources to carry out these recommendations. And we will continue to ask the General Assembly to fully fund these efforts.”