HJR 640: Joint Subcommittee to Study Options to Provide a Long-Term
Funding Source to Clean Up Virginia's Polluted Waters, Including the Chesapeake
Bay and its Tributaries
The Joint Subcommittee
to Study Options to Provide a Long-Term Funding
Source to Clean Up Virginia's Polluted Waters, Including the Chesapeake
Bay and its Tributaries held its second meeting on July 20, 2005.
BAXTER PRESENTS THE REPORT OF THE GOVERNOR'S COMMISSION ON NATURAL RESOURCES
Russell W. Baxter,
Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources for Chesapeake Bay Coordination,
presented a summary of the Report of the Governor's Commission on Natural
Resources Funding that was made to Governor Warner on October 9, 2003.
Some of the findings of the Commission included:
- Additional funding
is needed and such will result in measurable environmental
improvements and positive economic activity.
- The focus should
be on water quality and land conservation.
The Commission recommended
that the level of general fund support must increase, but recognized that
general funds were likely to be insufficient. Accordingly, the Commission
recommended that new sources of dedicated revenue be explored that meet
certain criteria including nexus between source of funds and resource,
ease of collection, breadth of applicability, and feasibility.
Based on these criteria,
the Commission's consensus recommendations for additional revenue were:
- A water utility
fee of $2.00 per month that would raise approximately
$46 million annually.
- A document recording
fee of $10 per document that would raise approximately $20 million annually.
The Commission recommended
that the revenue from these fees be deposited into a newly established
Virginia Natural and Historical Resources Fund.
Mr. Baxter then presented
a summary of the cost to the Commonwealth to clean up Virginia's waters.
Specifically, he stated that the state's share of the cost to clean up
the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for the period 2005-2010 would
be about $1.74 billion; the state's share of the cost to clean up Virginia's
southern rivers would be about $600 million, for a total of $2.34 billion.
COMMISSION POLLUTION REDUCTION STRATEGIES
The next speaker,
Ann Swanson, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, presented
the 6 most cost-effective strategies for reducing nutrient and sediment
pollution in the Chesapeake Bay as determined by her Commission:
- Wastewater treatment
- Traditional nutrient
management (prescribing the use and timing of nutrients in manure and
commercial fertilizer to reduce excess application while assuring no
loss of yield).
- Conservation tillage
(reducing erosion and nutrient runoff by planting crops with minimal
cultivation while retaining cover crops and crop residue that covers
a minimum of 30% of the field).
- Cover crops (consuming
excess nutrients by planting small grain crops in the fall that are
not fertilized and are killed or plowed under in the spring).
- Diet and feed
adjustments (adding feed additives to increase animals' absorption of
nutrients and thereby reducing nutrients excreted in manure).
- Enhanced nutrient
management (reducing nutrients applied to cropland by an additional
15%. The first 4 of these strategies can be implemented in the short-term,
while the other two will take more time.
Ms. Swanson said
that upgrades to wastewater treatment plants constitute the single most
beneficial nutrient reduction practice, delivering greater nitrogen and
phosphorous reductions than the five agricultural-related strategies combined.
She stated that in
addition to the costs presented by Mr. Baxter, other costs will be ongoing
and needs extend far beyond 2010; for example, sewage treatment plants
have a 20-year design life and cover crops must be purchased every year.
As a result, Ms.
Swanson concluded that establishing a significant, long-term dedicated
funding source is the only way to remove Virginia's waters from the Federal
Dirty Waters List and restore the Bay.
TWO MARYLAND PROGRAMS
TO CLEAN UP THE BAY
Robert M. Summers,
Director, Water Management Administration, Maryland Department of the
Environment, described Maryland's two major programs to clean up its waters
and the funding for them. The first program is the Biological Nutrient
Removal (BNR) Program, which calls for upgrades to 66 large sewage treatment
plants to reduce nitrogen levels in discharge waters to 8 mg/liter. The
majority of the plants have been upgraded resulting in (from 1985 levels)
a 52% reduction in nitrogen discharged and a 63% reduction in phosphorous
discharged. The total state and local cost of the program is estimated
at $600 million, with the state funding its portion through state general
The second program
involves the recent creation of the Bay Restoration Fund that will permit
Maryland to achieve over one-third of the necessary additional nutrient
- Further upgrading
wastewater treatment plants with Enhanced Nutrient Removal Facilities.
- Upgrading certain
- Implementing cover
crops on agricultural land.
Funding for the wastewater
treatment plants comes from a newly imposed $2.50 per month per household
surcharge on sewer bills that is estimated to generate $60 million annually.
This revenue will be used to back over $750 million in revenue bonds.
Funding for septic tank upgrades and for cover crops comes from a new
$30 annual fee (beginning October 1, 2005) on septic tank users that is
estimated to generate $12.6 million per year.
OF CONSERVATION & RECREATION POLLUTION REDUCTION STRATEGIES
The next speaker,
Joseph H. Maroon, Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation
and Recreation (DCR), described DCR's non-point source programs and strategies
for cleaning up Virginia's waters. His Department's programs focus on
agricultural nutrient reductions because the General Assembly requires
such focus, agricultural sources contribute the largest amount of phosphorous
(41%) and the second most amount of nitrogen (29%) to the Bay and Virginia's
tributaries, and they are among the most cost-effective measures.
He briefly described
the major agricultural programs that included cover crops, continuous
no-till systems, nutrient management planning, riparian forest buffers,
and animal waste control facilities.
Mr. Maroon said that obtaining the necessary results in the agricultural
programs will require, among other things, long-term substantial funding
and a change in DCR's traditional strategy of "education/demonstration"
to implementation. He emphasized that inconsistent funding from year to
year ("boom or bust") does not permit the necessary continuity
of state/local staffing, and does not permit farmers to plan for the future.
Mr. Maroon concurred with the itemized costs presented by Mr. Baxter for
agricultural programs (see study website for handout materials). DCR's
practices are generally closely aligned with the Chesapeake Bay Commission's
most cost-effective strategies.
OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY POLLUTION REDUCTION STRATEGIES
The final speaker,
Robert Burnley, Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
(DEQ), described Virginia's point source nutrient control strategy for
the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The strategy is a combination of:
- Virginia's Tributary
Strategies that define the necessary control actions.
- Point Source Regulations
that will be developed by the State Water Control Board to govern the
point source reduction programs.
- Chesapeake Bay
Watershed Nutrient Credit Exchange Program that will permit point-source
dischargers to acquire point-source offsets or to purchase credits from
other dischargers who have earned the credits by exceeding their goals.
- Water Quality
Improvement Fund (WQIF) that will be used to provide grants to the 125
significant treatment plants for upgrades.
Mr. Burnley said
that the WQIF has $65.7 million in available funds for fiscal year 2006,
but needs $500 million more for the upgrades. He concluded by explaining
that Virginia's point source strategies are consistent with the Chesapeake
Bay Commission's most cost-effective strategies.
The next meeting
of the joint subcommittee will be held September 28 and 29 at Port Isobel
Island, Chesapeake Bay.
The Hon. Vincent
F. Callahan, Jr.
Marty Farber, David
Rosenberg, or Mark Vucci