Chesapeake Bay Foundation Names Democratic Senators Legislators of the Year

From the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

May 11, 2009

For Immediate Release

Contact: Chuck Epes, 804/780-1392

 

CBF NAMES SENATORS WHIPPLE AND NORTHAM AS LEGISLATORS OF YEAR

 

RICHMOND, VA. – The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has named state Senators Mary Margaret Whipple and Ralph S. Northam as Legislators of the Year for their work in the 2009 Virginia General Assembly.

 

Senator Whipple, D-Arlington, helped successfully secure $40 million in the state 2009-10 budget to fund Virginia’s agricultural conservation program that assists farmers and other landowners in conserving soil and water and reducing polluted runoff. Widespread use of the conservation program is seen as critical to restoring water quality in Virginia rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

 

Senator Whipple also led the successful adoption of legislation establishing the Virginia Natural Resources Commitment Fund and directing the state to annually determine the funding need of the agriculture conservation program and report it to the governor and General Assembly. In addition, CBF recognized Senator Whipple’s work with Senator Northam to promote native oyster restoration.

 

Senator Northam, D-Norfolk, led the charge to defeat a Senate resolution calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow introduction of sterilized non-native oysters to the Bay. The resolution initially had broad support in the Senate, but after working with CBF and other conservation partners, Senator Northam helped persuade Senate colleagues that the most prudent, promising approach to Bay oyster restoration and aquaculture lies with native oysters, not a foreign species. The resolution ultimately failed on a 16-22 vote.

 

“Once again, Senator Whipple has demonstrated her genuine commitment to clean water and the Chesapeake Bay,” said CBF President William C. Baker, noting CBF has given her the legislative award twice before. “Her leadership was critical in ensuring that one of Virginia’s most cost-effective pollution-reduction tools, the farm conservation program, is funded next year and in the years to come. And her support for native oysters will help restore this vital natural and economic resource to the Bay without the risks associated with non-native species.”

 

Senator Whipple said, “For the last two years an extraordinary partnership among advocates for the environment and agriculture has coalesced around the issue of clean water in Virginia’s streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. The General Assembly has established the Natural Resources Commitment Fund, which is working to improve water quality by supporting agricultural best management practices.”

 

Of Senator Northam’s efforts in the legislature, Baker said, “Senator Northam was instrumental in helping educate legislators about the pros and cons of using non-native oysters in the Bay. Generations to come will look back with gratitude at his leadership on this critical Chesapeake Bay issue.”

 

In accepting the award, Senator Northam said, “Having grown up on the water in Onancock, the Chesapeake Bay has always been very special to me.  I became involved in public service in large part to help protect the Bay and its resources, which are vital to the economy of my district, and to Virginia as a whole.

 

“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation continues to be the leading advocate for cleaning up our waterways, and I am honored and humbled that I have been chosen to receive this award.  We will continue to work together to make a healthy Bay a reality, rather than just a dream.”

 

CBF’s Legislator of the Year Awards are presented to lawmakers who have made outstanding efforts in the General Assembly to improve the health and resources of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF will present the awards Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at 9:40 a.m. in front of the Mount Vernon Administration Building, site of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council meeting at Mount Vernon in Fairfax County.

 

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