Last Saturday the General Assembly closed its 2019 session. HB 2786 (Ingram), SB 1355 and Coal combustion residuals ponds; closure passed. These are identical bills to clean up the state’s legacy coal ash within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The new law would require Dominion to excavate the ponds and recycle at least a quarter (6.8 million cubic yards) of the 27 million cubic yards of existing coal ash at Bremo Power Station, Chesapeake Energy Center, Chesterfield Power Station, and Possum Point Power Station. The remainder would be deposited in a permitted and lined landfills that meets current federal standards. The closure project shall be completed within 15 years of its initiation and shall be accompanied by an offer by the owner or operator to provide connection to a municipal water supply for every residence within one-half mile if feasible, otherwise Dominion will provide water testing. The costs will be recovered in a rate adjustment which is why Dominion agreed to the deal.
Other legislation impacting water was the passing of SB 1414 Potomac Aquifer recharge monitoring; advisory board; laboratory established; SWIFT Project. Creates an advisory board and a laboratory to monitor the effects of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow (SWIFT) Project being undertaken by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) to artificially recharge the Potomac Aquifer.
The bill establishes a 10-member advisory board called the Potomac Aquifer Recharge Oversight Committee (the Committee), directing it to ensure that the SWIFT Project is monitored independently. The bill also creates the Potomac Aquifer Recharge Monitoring Laboratory, placing it under the co-direction of one Old Dominion University faculty member and one Virginia Tech faculty member. The bill provides that the Laboratory shall monitor the impact of the SWIFT Project on the Potomac Aquifer, manage testing data, and conduct water sampling and analysis to ensure proper protection of this valuable water resource.
Finally, the Budget passed included money for Natural Resources than in the Governor’s proposed budget with the following impacts for soil and water conservation districts:
- Maintains current levels of essential operational funding for the 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts at $7,291,091 each year.
- The Governor’s budget includes the mandatory deposit to the Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF) of the FY19 year-end surplus of $72,800,000.
- Unfortunately, but not surprisingly other funding for the Soil and Water Conservation District programs in the original budget were reduced by $35,031,151 that was intended to finish the remaining SL-6 (stream exclusion fencing) backlog, jump start Watershed Implementation Plane III (WIP3) to achieve the 2025 pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay, for CREP, and for Ag BMPs and other non-point source projects and technical assistance.
There were a few additions to the budget:
- Remote Monitoring of District Flood Control Dams. $400,000 was appropriated to the Soil and Water Conservation District Dam Maintenance, Repair and Rehabilitation Fund to install remote monitoring equipment for District-owned high and significant hazard dams. Recent flooding have highlighted the need for remote monitoring of District-owned dams typically in remote locations during storms.
- Engineering Study of Pittsylvania Dams. $100,000 was appropriated for an engineering study of these dams.
- The Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP). $1,000,000was appropriated for VCAP, an urban cost-share program that provides financial incentives and technical assistance to private property used for residential, commercial, or recreational purposes installing eligible Best Management Practices (BMP’s) in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed to solve problems like erosion and poor drainage.