Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that as part of his amendments to the current biennial budget, to be formally unveiled on Friday, he will call for additional funding to support water quality improvements, especially in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, as well as additional funding for land conservation within both the Secretariats of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Forestry.
Speaking about the funding, Governor McDonnell noted, "Virginians are blessed with an array of natural resources like scenic rivers, rolling hills, the Chesapeake Bay and historic battlefields. These key investments will support Virginia's efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay as well as continue to put us closer to meeting the goal of conserving 400,000 acres of land across the Commonwealth. In addition, it will provide extra support for our family farming community as they work to comply with water quality best management practices."
Requested amounts total $39 million including:
* $32.8 million of the FY2010 surplus to be deposited to the Water Quality Improvement Fund administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation to support non-point source water quality improvements and agricultural best management practices, and funds Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
* $3.6 million of the FY2010 surplus to be deposited to the Water Quality Improvement Fund administered by the Department of Environmental Quality to support point-source water quality improvements.
* $2 million in additional funding for land conservation easements. This request would provide $1 million to make grants to environmental non-profits through the Virginia Land Conservation Fund (VLCF), and $1 million to the Department of Historic Resources for deposit into the Civil War Historic Site Preservation Fund. In addition, the Governor will direct the Secretary of Natural Resources to transfer an additional $2 million remaining in the land conservation bond fund to DCR and DHR for land conservation easement purposes. The VLCF current has $1.25 million in it so these contributions will bring the fund up to $3.25 million.
* $400,000 added to the Purchase of Development Rights Program administered through Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' (VDACS) Office of Farmland Preservation under the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. This brings the total appropriation to $500,000.
* $186,000 for two new positions to VDACS' Agricultural Stewardship Act (ASA) program to provide support and technical assistance to family farms with meeting water quality requirements; the ASA currently has one employee serving the entire state.
Additional investments in Natural Resource agencies include:
* $100,000 to support a Renewable Energy Program staff position to assist with establishing a regulatory framework to facilitate the development of clean, renewable, indigenous energy through Permit by Rule.
* Funds to support two new positions at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. $66,000 for two year funding for a part-time grant writer to help with outside funding opportunities and $130,000 to support two years for a Collections Manager to comply with national accreditation.
* $120,000 each year to restore funding at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) for the Marine Law Enforcement Program.
"The Governor's personal engagement with EPA on cleaning the Bay has been instrumental in improving the state's watershed implementation plan while protecting jobs," commented Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech. "Now we are showing that commitment to the clean up by doing our part to fund the plan."
"I applaud the Governor's commitment to our working family farms through his budget amendments, said Todd P. Haymore, Secretary Agriculture and Forestry. The two new Agricultural Stewardship positions will provide much needed support to ensuring that our family farms are meeting water quality requirements so they can continue operations and moving products into the marketplace. The enhancement to the state's Purchase of Development Rights program will help localities work to preserve working farmlands -- lands that will continue to provide jobs, food products, tax revenue, and environmental benefits."
Delegate Paula Miller (D-Norfolk) remarked, "The Chesapeake Bay is one of Virginia's greatest treasures and plays an important role in Virginia's economic success. I thank the Governor for his efforts to improve the health of the Bay, and look forward to working to get this important funding into action."
Delegate Ed Scott (R-Madison) noted, "I commend the Governor and his administration for their goal of conserving 400,000 acres of land. Our historic battlefields and natural resources should be preserved so that visitors and our children and grandchildren can learn and see firsthand what our ancestors worked so hard to build."
G. Robert Lee, Executive Director of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation said, "The Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the private land trust community were gratified when Governor McDonnell pledged strong support for voluntary land conservation programs that protect the natural and cultural heritage landscapes for which Virginia is revered. Now, Governor McDonnell is following through on his commitment in his proposed FY 2012 Budget. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation holds more open-space conservation easements than any public land trust in the nation and VOF appreciates Governor McDonnell's personal commitment to maintain Virginia's national leadership for voluntary land conservation."