Members of the Virginia House of Delegate's Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resource committee visited the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on August 26th and 27th to talk with researchers about issues facing Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
The visiting delegates, members of the Chesapeake subcommittee, represent districts from the Eastern Shore to the Blue Ridge and share an interest in restoring and maintaining the Bay’s ecological and economic health. They were invited to VIMS for the 2-day retreat by Delegate Harvey Morgan, whose district includes the VIMS campus in Gloucester Point. Morgan chairs the full House committee.
In addition to discussions with VIMS scientists, the delegates heard from representatives from the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Omega Protein, U.S. EPA, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality, Virginia Farm Bureau, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
VIMS Dean and Director John Wells, who led off the retreat with an overview of Bay issues, says the event “provided a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other how VIMS can best fulfill its legislative mandate to provide advisory service to the Commonwealth on marine-resource issues.”
Delegate Morgan says the information gained during the retreat was "invaluable in helping us to understand and manage the challenges we face in restoring the Bay."
During their visit to VIMS, subcommittee members explored issues related to blue crabs, harmful algal blooms, menhaden, ownership of subaqueous lands, oyster restoration and aquaculture, seagrasses, shoreline management, storm-surge modeling, and water quality.
Their visit included a cruise aboard the RV Pelican, a surplus Navy landing craft that VIMS has retrofitted for Bay and coastal research. The delegates learned about VIMS’ role in protecting the Yorktown shoreline, sampled and viewed the algae responsible for the current “red tide” in the York River, and discussed the collaborative project between VIMS scientists and watermen to remove derelict crab pots from the Bay.
During a second-day cruise aboard the CBF vessel Bea Hayman Clark, the delegates discussed environmental education, York River water quality, and issues related to oyster aquaculture and watermen, including spat-on-shell oyster restoration efforts.
Del. John Cosgrove, Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, lauded the subcommittee members during his evening address for their bipartisan approach to Bay management. He also asked them to continue to encourage other delegates to consider how legislation affects the Chesapeake—noting that almost the entire Commonwealth lies within the Bay’s 64,000 square mile watershed. Ann Swanson, the Commission’s Executive Director, sounded a similar note, pointing out that legislators must work together—and with their counterparts from other states around the Bay—“because nature knows no political boundaries.”
House members attending the retreat included Delegate Harvey B. Morgan, Delegate Beverly J. Sherwood, Delegate R. Lee Ware, Jr., Delegate Edward T. Scott, Delegate Matthew J. Lohr, Delegate Brenda L. Pogge, Delegate Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr., Delegate David L. Bulova, and Delegate Margaret G. Vanderhye.