The U.S. government pays the state of Virginia $64 million dollars to clean up the Elizabeth River. Britain pledges to protect 265,000 square miles of ocean. Virginia governor Ralph Northam pledges $10 million in capital funds to restore oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay. And 14 nations pledge to stop overfishing.
US Government Gives $64 Million to Virginia for a Clean Up Project, Britain’s Pledge to Protect Ocean, Virginia’s $10 Million Deal to Restore Oyster Beds, Developed Nations Take a New Pledge
U.S., VIRGINIA SETTLE SUPERFUND CASE ON THE ELIZABETH RIVER
The United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia have entered into an agreement under which the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Virginia will recover nearly $64 million in cleanup costs at the Atlantic Wood Industries (AWI) Superfund Site in Portsmouth, Va. The site, located on the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and immediately north of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s Southgate Annex, was the former location of a wood treating facility and includes approximately 50 acres of land and more than 30 acres of river sediments.
The agreement was reached under the federal Superfund law — formally known as the Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) — That law requires landowners, current and former operators, waste generators and waste transporters responsible for contaminating a Superfund site to clean up the site or reimburse the government or other parties for cleanup activities.
Under the agreement, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of the Navy will pay EPA $55.3 million for cleanup costs. They will also pay Virginia $8.5 million for past costs and future activities Virginia will conduct at the site.
The EPA-approved plan for the cleanup of contaminated soils, river sediments, and groundwater at the site includes: construction of an offshore sheet pile wall; dredging with consolidation and capping of contaminated sediments behind the wall and at the west portion of the site; and excavation or on-site treatment of contaminated soils.
Along with cleanup costs, DoD and the Navy are funding a $1.5 million oyster restoration project to be implemented by Virginia in the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River.
NEW PROTECTIONS FOR SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN
A group of remote islands in the South Atlantic received a huge boost in marine protections. As part of the United Kingdom’s overseas territory, Tristan da Cunha islands is home to roughly 250 people who have already taken significant strides towards marine conservation by banning deep-sea mining and bottom-trawling fishing. Reported by the Guardian, the government announced roughly 265,000 square miles across the South Atlantic will turn into a marine protected area, becoming the fourth largest marine sanctuary in the world. Fishing, mining and other harmful activities will be banned, protecting surrounding waters home to penguins, whales and sharks.
The new protections contribute to the U.K. government’s goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. In a statement, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on other nations to join Britain’s push for further marine protections.
DEEPER DIVE: The Guardian
VIRGINIA GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES $10 MILLION INVESTMENT TO SUPPORT CHESAPEAKE BAY OYSTER RESTORATION
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam celebrated the restoration of the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River by announcing $10 million in new funding to support future oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. According to his office, this spending commitment marks the first time that capital funds, which are typically reserved for infrastructure projects, have been explicitly used to restore Virginia’s natural resources.
The effort to restore native oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest and most aggressive in the world. With the signing of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Virginia and its partners committed to restoring native oyster populations in 10 tributaries by 2025. Virginia has already restored 240.5 acres of native oyster habitat building on earlier restoration of 473 acres. This restoration work has vastly improved water quality and generated billions of baby oysters in the Bay.
Oysters are an important species in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, filtering and removing excess nutrients like nitrogen from the water. In addition to spawning and producing more oysters throughout the Bay, restored oyster reefs provide critical ecosystem services including shoreline protection and habitat for fish, crabs and other aquatic life.
In 2020 alone, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission deployed 10,500 tons of rock and 100,000 bushels of shell to restore 21 acres of oyster habitat in the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River. This oyster restoration work is the result of a partnership between the Elizabeth River Project and Virginia Marine Resource Commission, with funding from an historic settlement with Atlantic Wood Industries to clean up its Superfund site and help the river recover from decades of pollution.
SUSTAINABLE FISHING ACCORD AGREED TO BY 14 NATIONS
Defined as the world’s largest international ocean sustainability initiative, 14 nations have pledged to end overfishing, restore local fish populations and protect their waters from pollution. The nations have also pledged to end illegal fishing and subsidies that contribute to overfishing by 2025. The 14 nations include Australia, Canada, Chile, FIJI, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal. Combined, the nations are responsible for around 40% of the world’s coastlines and 20% of the world’s fisheries.
As members of the international group, the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy, the nations work across financial, science, government and business sectors to establish action-based solutions towards a sustainable ocean economy. The panel invites more world leaders to join and says they are establishing this initiative with 2030 and the accomplishment of the U.S. Sustainable Development Goals on the horizon.
DEEPER DIVE: High Level Panel for A Sustainable Ocean Economy