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Chesapeake Bay Foundation poll finds strong public support for cleanup initiative
A new survey finds 92 percent of those polled agree the Chesapeake Bay is important for Virginia's economy.
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By RUSTY DENNEN
As efforts advance to put teeth in plans to clean up the ailing Chesapeake Bay, a new poll finds strong support among Virginia voters.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation-commissioned poll released yesterday found that overwhelming numbers of Virginians believe the bay is important to the state's economy and should be a priority of state government.
Public Opinion Surveys, a national polling firm, surveyed 500 registered voters last week.
Among the findings:
80 percent of voters believe that Virginia can protect water quality and have a strong economy with good jobs.
92 percent of those surveyed said that the phrase "important for Virginia's economy" describes the bay well.
By a nearly 3-1 margin, respondents prefer the state develop a strong plan that seriously addresses bay pollution, as opposed to addressing how such a plan could harm the economy.
By a nearly 2-1 margin, voters surveyed want the state to establish its own plan to reduce polluted runoff through stronger requirements and incentives so that farms, sewage-treatment plants and others meet the new pollution-reduction standards.
"The survey dramatically confirms that clean water is very important to Virginians and to Virginia's economy," Ann Jennings, Virginia executive director for the bay foundation, said in a news release. "And voters clearly want Virginia's leaders to develop a strong bay cleanup plan that ensures clean water, a healthy bay and a strong economy for all Virginians."
The Environmental Protection Agency in September announced a mandatory "pollution diet" for the bay, which requires sweeping new action by states that contribute to the problem.
That would ensure that pollution controls to restore the estuary are in place by 2025, with 60 percent of the actions completed by 2017. A final version of the plan is due by December.
It includes accountability measures to ensure the states' cleanup commitments are met. The process dates to the 1990s, but was accelerated by President Obama's executive order in May to restore and protect the bay.
Virginia's draft cleanup plan, issued last month, drew criticism from the EPA, the bay foundation and other environmental groups for lacking substance and detail.
Some farmers and developers have expressed concern that the cleanup plan will cost them proportionately more than others.
Virginia and the EPA are currently taking public comment on the state's draft plan through Nov. 8.
Lori Weigel, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, said there is a consensus among Virginians that having clean water is a basic need and an important issue for government.
"Therefore, voters would advise the state to come up with a better plan for the bay," she said.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Public Opinion Strategies last week completed 500 telephone interviews with registered voters throughout Virginia. The margin of error
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