By Del. Kaye Kory
My serious concerns about the governor’s proposal to withdraw Virginia from the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) have been reinforced upon reading the letter Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech wrote to me in order to calm my fears.
Mr. Domenech states that withdrawal from the ICPRB will not have a negative impact upon any Chesapeake Bay improvement efforts or other water resource programs. He makes this generalization without any supporting comments or citing any data.
Water supply purity and reliability are so very fundamental to the health, welfare, and economic vitality of our commonwealth that an unsupported claim like this is not only unacceptable, it is irresponsible.
Mr. Domenesch goes on to point out that the ICPRB membership fee ($151,500) is equivalent to the cost of two full-time state employees “who could be working on water quality issues.” That’s a fair point. But the same budget document that describes the elimination of the ICPRB membership also calls for the elimination of three full-time Department of Environmental Quality staff positions while zeroing-out two water quality monitoring contracts with Virginia Commonwealth University totaling $194,217.
All water supply planning grants to localities would be eliminated as well. All this is a rather breathtaking series of cuts to Virginia’s already-weak water quality oversight efforts.
Mr. Demenech closes his letter by noting that the ICPRB provides only a “regional benefit” that “serves what has largely been viewed as a local function” and suggests “local financing” for this so-called “regional benefit.”
I totally disagree with describing the water supply for more than three out of every eight Virginians as a local concern. Disrupting this local concern—i.e. a clean and reliable water supply for nearly half of all Virginians—will have damaging commonwealth-wide effects on our economic prospects. And pushing this expense and responsibility onto local governments does not reflect a serious commitment to maintaining a business-friendly state nor a serious commitment to maintaining the health and safety we all deserve.
Kaye Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.