augusta free press news

Virginia receives federal grant to advance Chesapeake Bay cleanup

earth-newGovernor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Virginia has been selected to receive a federal grant to accelerate the implementation of practices related to Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals.

Virginia will receive $1.75 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The funds will be used to install soil and water conservation best management practices on farmland.

“The Chesapeake Bay is one of Virginia’s most precious asset, both ecologically and economically,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This grant will help meet the large demand for conservation programs that reduce pollution and improve water quality. By giving farmers tools they need to protect their soil and water resources, we can more easily achieve our goals to improve the bay and promote a vibrant agricultural economy.”

Specifically, the funds will be used over the next four years to expand the use of fencing and other techniques designed to prevent livestock from wading into streams and fouling water quality. The funds will be concentrated in the areas of Virginia where tributary streams drain to the Chesapeake Bay.

The majority of Virginia’s grant — $1.45 million — will be paid out to farmers directly. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will receive the remaining $300,000, which will be distributed to the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to provide technical assistance in establishing forested buffers on agricultural land.

“Virginia must advance farm conservation practices to achieve its clean water goals, and fortunately, reducing pollution from agricultural runoff is the most cost-effective way to improve water quality,” said Ann Jennings, Virginia executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “CBF is honored to partner with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to continue efforts to help farmers install practices that reduce polluted runoff, including riparian buffers, stream protection and rotational grazing through the RCPP program. These funds, combined with increased state support, can ensure a cleaner Chesapeake Bay for future generations.”

The grant funds will be matched with state funds to give most farmers enrolled at least 90 percent of the cash needed to implement the practices. Participation is voluntary.

“With this grant, we will be able to focus directly on an issue that plagues the bay — the overabundance of nutrients in the streams that flow into it,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “In addition, more farmers will benefit from stream-exclusion practices which reduce manure in streams, protect stream banks and can result in healthier herds.”

Virginia applied for the grant along with Maryland and Delaware from the Chesapeake Bay Critical Conservation Area grant pool, one of eight areas in the United States designated by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for stakeholders to partner on a regional level to reach common natural resource goals.

Virginia’s grant is part of a $5.5 million award shared among the three states. Each state will emphasize specific agricultural practices based on its individual bay cleanup commitments. The funds should be available by April.