Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, in a cost-saving effort, is taking Virginia out of a 71-year-old multi-state compact to clean and maintain the Potomac River. The Governor's $85 billion biennial budget package does not include $151,500 to fund the Commonwealth's membership in the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.
"Our membership fee in ICPRB is expensive, particularly when compared to other interstate organizations—in fact, at least three times the cost of other groups," wrote Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech in an Oct. 27 letter to Del. Scott Surovell (D-44). "This membership fee represents the equivalent cost for two full-time state employees who could be working on core water quality programs within the Commonwealth… Virginia's membership in the ICPRB is no longer needed to provide quality management of the state's interest in the river basin."
The Potomac River Basin encompasses 15,000 square miles, and the multi-jurisdictional contract has been maintained by Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the District of Columbia since it was enacted in 1940.
will introduce a budget amendment to restore the funds to the biennial budget. “Our state represents the largest portion of the Potomac River watershed; not funding it is a big deal,” he told the Washington Times.
The ICPRB is a non-regulatory agency tasked with seeking "collaborative watershed-based management" through:
- Water demand forecasting
- Flood control and flood forecast systems
- Acid mine drainage abatement passive treatment
- Drinking water assessments and source water protection studies
- River flow modeling and time of travel studies
- Zooplankton and phytoplankton assessments
- Restoration of fish populations
- Aquatic habitat assessments and redevelopment
- Wetlands assessments and restoration
- Fisheries management and flow assessments
- Published newsletters and reports and a website
- Programs for schools, citizen groups
- Coordination of watershed groups conducting stream cleanups
"Nobody from Richmond or the McDonnell administration contacted any of their own commissioners," said Rob Hartwell, appointed by McDonnell as the Virginia Commissioner on the ICPRB, to Patch. "They made the decision in a vacuum. It was just plain poor management."
Hartwell said that David K. Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has been a member of the commission for six years and attended one meeting. "The state says: 'We're spending $150,500. We don't know what it [the ICPRB] does and we'll get rid of it.' Their main representative on the commission had only been to one meeting in six years, so it must be hard for them to keep track."
Virginia's $151,500 investment pays for itself with $500,000 in returns, from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants and projects made possible with the funds.
Hartwell said that with Virginia out of the compact, cooperation between local water authorities could also be compromised.
"This means a possible and likely increase in water pollution in the Potomac," he said. "When I grew up along Mason Neck I used to write my name in algae and could read it as it floated a mile away… We don't want to turn the clock back and go in reverse."