Virginia Gov. George Allen an-nounced that he would propose spending $60 million over the next two years to meet a year 2000 nutrient reduction goal in the Potomac River and to speed up pollution control efforts in other Bay tributaries.
Allen, who has often been criticized for his environmental policies and for the slow pace of nutrient control efforts in Virginia, made the announcement while attending his final Executive Council meeting. Virginia governors are not allowed to seek re-election, and his term ends in January.
"The people of Virginia are committed to being responsible stewards of the Bay and all of our natural resources," Allen said. "And here today, Virginians renew their pledge to continue to work constructively with our neighbors, not just sign agreements, but act. And we're putting money on the table to responsibly get the job done."
Allen's proposal will be included in his final two-year budget proposal which will be completed before he leaves office. The expenditures must still be approved by the General Assembly and Gov.-elect James Gilmore.
If they go along, the program would substantially expand the $15 million nutrient reduction program which had been approved by Allen and the General Assembly during the 1997 legislative session.
"Our earlier efforts were not a one-shot deal," said Allen, who credited the Commonwealth's ability to make the "unprecedented" investment in Bay restoration to significantly expanded economic activity in the state over the past several years.
Virginia had earlier completed a "tributary strategy" to meet the 40 percent nutrient reduction for its portion of the Potomac, including the Shenandoah River. But that plan would not obtain the desired reduction until about 2003, primarily because of the cost, and construction time, involved in upgrading wastewater treatment plants.
Under Allen's proposal, the state would create "Year 2000 Challenge Grants" that will offer a bonus for the acceleration of point-source projects that can help Virginia meet the 40 percent nutrient reduction goal on time.
In addition, Allen's proposal would:
- Help with upgrades, expansions and other improvements at Virginia wastewater treatment plants by increasing the number of projects funded by the Water Quality Improvement Fund. The fund was created by the General Assembly earlier in the year to finance nutrient control efforts.
- Propose legislation to expand eligibility in the Water Quality Improvement Fund so that privately owned treatment plants can participate.
- Help to reduce urban and agricultural runoff pollution by planting additional grass and riparian buffers to better manage erosion and nutrients; constructing storage sheds for poultry litter and other animal wastes to prevent them from polluting Bay tributaries; funding no-till farming equipment; and pursuing innovative technologies, such as more precise fertilizer application equipment and the use of phytase - which can be added to animal feed to reduce the phosphorus content in their waste - and other strategies to better manage nonpoint source pollution.
- Increase the number of professionally trained personnel to develop nutrient management plans in the Shenan-doah/Potomac watershed.
- Increase financial assistance to farmers for the implementation of nutrient reduction strategies.
- Increase Virginia's investment in operational improvements at the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant in the District of Columbia to further reduce the flow of nutrients from the plant into the Potomac.
"By moving forward with this action plan, Virginia can achieve the 40 percent reduction goal to which we all committed over a decade ago," Allen said.
While much of the focus of the effort is to help meet the year 2000 goal in the Potomac, Allen said that some of the money will be used to expand nutrient control efforts in Virginia's other Bay tributaries, where specific nutrient reduction targets are still being developed.