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Natural Awakenings Richmond

RiverRep Volunteers Move Clean Water Policies Forward

Mar 01, 2020 09:04AM
by Anna Killius

The inaugural class of more than 20 volunteers in the new James River Association volunteer RiverRep program, launched last fall, has been trained on how to effectively speak out on pressing issues facing the James River watershed and its communities. They are equipped with the tools and skills needed to communicate with key policy-makers, from our elected representatives in Washington and Richmond to local and agency officials across the Commonwealth. And they have committed to taking at least three independent advocacy actions each year.

Members have already accomplished a lot a lot since the program began:
  • They wrote to Governor Ralph Northam about making clean water funding a priority in the next two-year budget. As a result, he proposed a record $400 million dollars for clean water programs over the next two years.
  • Volunteers contacted their state legislators about protecting clean water program funds as the General Assembly passes the governor’s budget proposal. They expressed how important it is for Virginia to help local communities invest in storm water projects that cut pollution and address flooding. And they supported new technology upgrades for wastewater treatment plants so that the James River no longer receives more than 70 percent of all wastewater pollution generated in Virginia.
  • They asked members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to support legislation that will fence cows out of year-round streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a key part of meeting 2025 Bay Cleanup goals and cutting bacteria levels in the James River.
  • RiverRep members have supported legislation that will protect the future of menhaden, an important fish that filters our water, fuels coastal economies and feeds native species like osprey and striped bass.
  • Volunteers asked committee members to take the risks of hazardous chemical storage seriously, particularly as rising sea levels and climate change contribute to flooding that can release these chemicals into nearby communities and waterways.
  • They have also asked for legislation to be passed requiring owners of above ground storage tanks holding hazardous chemicals to register their tanks, inspect them periodically and develop response plans in the event of a spill.

Whether it’s sending a personal note, making a quick phone call, writing a letter to the editor of their local paper or testifying before lawmakers on what clean water means for their community, RiverReps are James Changers, helping to reach the goal of a Grade A river by 2026.

To become a RiverRep, email Anna Killius at [email protected] or visit TheJamesRiver.org/riverrep.