Letter to the Editor: Lawmakers urged to fund clean water program

Editor:

Thanks for the excellent, in-depth Jan. 15 story by Alex Bridges reporting on the estimated $2.5-$3 million backlog in agricultural conservation projects carried by the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. In fact, we were swamped by the understandable rush of area farmers to sign up for cost-free livestock stream exclusion programs funded 100 percent by the commonwealth. As one may expect, the project backlog is statewide; Virginia’s 46 other conservation districts are similarly swamped, to the tune of $83 million!

Backlog-busting will depend upon sufficient General Assembly funding for fiscal year 2017 (and 2018). Accordingly, three cheers for the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, which just passed a resolution asking Richmond for exactly that!

To make the case directly, Lord Fairfax District mounted a five-director expedition to the General Assembly on Jan. 14. Shenaandoah County Director (and District Vice Chair) Joan Comanor papered the halls with copies of the aforementioned resolution and awards were presented to Sen. Jill Vogel and Del. Michael Webert for their outstanding work for environmental conservation.

We told our legislators (those representing the people of Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren Counties, plus the city of Winchester) that the commendable increases for agricultural cost share and related items contained in the governor’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposals were not enough. Further, an increase in district operating funds, kept at present levels by the governor’s proposals, would also be necessary to attack backlogs.

We also urged our legislators to provide funding to enable districts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (including Shenandoah Valley counties) to inaugurate programs to reduce harmful urban stormwater runoff before it reaches streams, rivers and the bay itself. Urban programs would beautifully complement our agriculture-focused efforts.

We felt that our area legislators reacted positively to our calls, that they well understand that only enhanced fiscal year 2017 budgeting can set our backlogged projects in motion for the cause of clean water — locally, for the Chesapeake Bay, and statewide.

Richard W. Hoover, chairman, Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District

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