Hanger: Restoring the Shenandoah River and Chesapeake Bay Requires Collaboration

Guest Post by Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.

Successful restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is predicated on diverse interests working in partnership and at times putting aside differences to pursue common ground. From the first Bay agreement, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the six watershed states, DC and the federal government have pledged to work together to reduce pollution flowing into our rivers and the Bay to restore its living resources.

News the federal government may now pull out of this effort and leave the work to the states, no longer providing technical and financial support, is cause for great concern. The collaborative structure of the Bay restoration partnership has meant the state governments and the federal government together share responsibilities.

The federal government’s role in this collaborative effort has proven essential to the successes to date. Their role includes coordinating complex decision-making, ensuring oversight and accountability, providing monitoring and modeling-based informational support, and offering financial grants to support state efforts.

Virginia’s success in achieving its water quality goals is dependent, at least in part, on an active partnership with the federal government. Our restoration success is equally dependent on a collaborative partnership of diverse stakeholders; particularly, an active engagement from private business, local government, agriculture, and conservation communities. In my experience, our best efforts have resulted from these diverse interests working together in pursuit of shared goals.

A recent news article (“Nearly 200 million chickens, turkeys and cows are making a mess of the Shenandoah River,” The Washington Post, April 26, 2017) cast a shadow on the efforts of Shenandoah Valley farmers and their implementation of best management practices to both improve their operations and local water quality. Unfortunately, it undermines those collaborative partnerships critical to restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

Telling a complete story -– one that highlights our successes as well as our shortcomings — is more accurate and respectful of our farm families and local conservation experts. It also sheds light on the fact that achieving success will require sacrifice and compromise. There are no easy solutions.

To support our animal agriculture industry and a healthy Shenandoah River, sustainable practices must be tackled through the joint efforts of landowners, producers, and soil and water conservation professionals. Their work must be supported by sound science, reliable and adequate funding, and continued investigations of innovative management measures.

There are lots of opportunities to learn more during Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week. Here in the 24th Senate District we’ll highlight a farm in Summerdean, Virginia, on June 8 that demonstrates the successes of a farmer and conservation experts working together for a healthy Shenandoah River. The Augusta County farmer has installed two miles of fencing and three stream crossings to exclude cattle and he has planted several hundred hardwood trees. His efforts improve the health of his cattle and local streams as well as the Chesapeake Bay.

I encourage you to join me in touring the farm and discussing the steps necessary to ensure we continue to work collaboratively –- state governments together with the federal government and farmers with conservation interests — to restore the Shenandoah River and the Chesapeake Bay.

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For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week farm tour in Summerdean, please call Senator Hanger’s District office at (540) 885-6898 or the Chesapeake Bay Commission at (804) 786-4849.

Senator Hanger serves the Virginia Senate’s 24th District representing Augusta, Greene, and Madison Counties, the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro, and parts of Rockingham and Culpeper Counties, and he is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

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