A Better Bay, a Better CommunityMar 29 | News
During my time in the legislature, I have been an advocate for reasonable conservation of our natural resources and have continuously strived to ensure that we receive the necessary funding and legislative solutions to conservation issues.
The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are one of the most critical natural resources to the Commonwealth. Those of us in agriculture rely on the bay and mother nature to provide us with the means to deliver goods to an ever-growing population. We also understand the importance of implementing Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) and the practical and cost-effective results that these practices yield.
Over a decade ago I implemented SL6 stream fencing BMPs on my farm and continuously utilize cover crops to ensure soil health, erosion and sediment control.
I also serve on our local John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation Board as an associate director. The understanding of BMPs and utilization before I was elected gave me an appreciation for everything that they offer, which is why I have continuously fought for funding and was awarded the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Legislator of the year in 2015.
I am proud to say that in the current budget my colleagues and I secured $84 million for various programs to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay and especially our Ag BMP programs.
I am also proud of two pieces of my legislation that will help the Commonwealth reach our Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals that are included in the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan for the Commonwealth.
The first piece of legislation is HB 2637 which was signed into law on March 18th. This bill utilizes existing federal funding to provide lower cost financing opportunities for the construction and implementation of agricultural best management practices (BMPs) for agriculture operations across the Commonwealth.
Essentially, this bill states that the Virginia Water Facilities Revolving Fund may be used to assist both public and private borrowers for construction of facilities to implement agricultural BMPs to improve water quality.
The bill also states that a riparian forest buffer would be included among the list of loan eligible agricultural BMPs.
Working with Ann Jennings, the Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources, and David Paylor at the Department of Environmental Quality, we were able to pass this legislation unanimously through both houses, and it has been signed by the Governor
The second piece of legislation that I would like to mention, HB 2811, is a bill that will save Fauquier County hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Fauquier County has been in the process of building a new water treatment system – the Catlett-Calverton Waste Water Treatment System. During this process, it was discovered by the General Contractor that the State Water Control Board (SWCB) was the only authority that could certify the equipment to qualify for the tax-exemption for pollution control facilities.
Given that the SWCB was not the appropriate regulatory agency to certify that this pollution control equipment could qualify for the tax-exemption status, it was not able to certify the equipment with the Department of Tax.
To fix this, I requested unanimous consent from my colleagues in the House of Delegates to present this bill.
Our bill, HB 2811, added the Virginia Department of Health as a certifying authority in order to fix this hole in the code. The bill was passed unanimously with an emergency clause and signed by the Governor.
It has been an honor to represent the rich history of agriculture and conservation of the 18th District in Richmond. I am proud to have been able to carry legislation this year that will save taxpayers money, positively impact the Chesapeake Bay, and benefit the 18th District as a whole.
Michael J. Webert
Delegate, 18th District