Broad coalition supports trees for clean water bill

mark keamA broad coalition of Virginians urges support of legislation introduced by Del. Mark Keam to expand the ability of localities to require tree planting or replacement during the development process to achieve specific water quality goals.

HB 2333 would help Virginia localities preserve and increase tree cover, which is a cost-efficient way to reduce polluted runoff and address local flooding.

“This bill gives localities greater flexibility to use trees as inexpensive tools to continue progress towards reducing pollution and cleaning up local waters,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Director of Outreach and Advocacy Ann Jurczyk. “Trees reduce polluted runoff and erosion by intercepting rainwater, soaking up nutrients, and helping to stabilize steep slopes. The roots of a single mature oak tree can absorb 40,000 gallons of water per year that slowly evaporate through its leaves, which helps combat local flooding.”

Del. Keam said HB 2333 will give local governments more flexibility in the way they choose to manage and ensure water quality within their jurisdictions. “To keep our waters clear and reduce pollution, everyone must do their part. I’m pleased to see a strong working relationship between the federal government and our Chesapeake Bay states. Now it’s time to give towns, cities, and counties more tools in their efforts to protect the Bay,” Keam said.

Current law allows localities to require developers to plant and replace trees up to very specific limits. For example, the maximum tree canopy a locality can require after development of a commercial property is 10 percent of the total project area after 20 years. For a residential parcel zoned for 10 or fewer units per acre, the locality may not require a tree canopy greater than 20 percent after 20 years.

The proposed legislation would provide localities with the ability to adopt new requirements to help meet clean water goals or address local flooding problems.

This bill is supported by a broad coalition of more than 50 organizations, including CBF, the Garden Club of Virginia, and a range of businesses and nonprofit groups. It is expected to be considered in the near future by the House Counties, Cities, and Towns Subcommittee #2.

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