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Virginia proposes end to participation with multi-state Commission aimed at protecting Potomac River

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) is an interstate agency created by the individual statutes of its member jurisdictions - Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Federal Government participation was approved by Congress in 1940.

The ICPRB promotes collaborative watershed-based services aimed at improving and protecting water quality and quantity in the Potomac River basin. The ICPRB provides services that directly benefit Virginia, including technical and managerial support, watershed-based initiatives with an intergovernmental focus and public education.

Virginia's cost for continued participation with the ICPRB is $151,500. The return on this investment is significant. In 2011, the total cost benefit to Virginia provided by ICPRB services totaled $529,000.

Virginia's participation is key to water supply management for the Potomac Basin. Because Virginia relies on the Potomac River for public drinking water, continued participation in the ICPRB provides the Commonwealth with a voice to help guide drought management planning and regional water policy. Northern Virginia water utilities also benefit from technical assistance.

According to Fairfax Water Authority (FWA), "Northern Virginia, an economic engine within the Commonwealth, would be adversely impacted by Virginia's withdrawal from the ICPRB." FWA has expressed concern that "withdrawing Virginia's membership from the ICPRB could have serious consequences for regional cooperative water supply operations and could jeopardize the reliability of the Potomac River as a water supply source during droughts."

According to the Washington Times, Rob Hartwell, an appointee of Gov. Bob McDonnell's to the ICPRB, said withholding the relatively modest $151,500 annual appropriation jeopardizes other cost-sharing federal programs and EPA grants as well as state-based conservation programs dependent on the funding. He cited as an example a $235,000 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water-quality grant "that would disappear with elimination of Virginia's role in ICPRB."

Withdrawal from the Commission would eliminate Virginia's seat at the table at a time when water resources are becoming an increasingly important aspect of the strong growth occurring in the region.

Virginia legislators will consider this proposal to opt out of the ICPRB soon. Share your views with officials: