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Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act
The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Bay Act) was enacted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 as a critical element of Virginia's non-point source management program.  

The Bay Act program is designed to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and other waters of the State by requiring the use of effective land management and land use planning. At the heart of the Bay Act is the concept that land can be used and developed to minimize negative impacts on water quality. The first sentence of the Bay Act serves as a theme for the entire statute:The Bay Act program is designed to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and other waters of the State by requiring the use of effective land management and land use planning. At the heart of the Bay Act is the concept that land can be used and developed to minimize negative impacts on water quality. The first sentence of the Bay Act serves as a theme for the entire statute:

"Healthy state and local economies and a healthy Chesapeake Bay are integrally related; balanced economic development and water quality protection are not mutually exclusive."

Virginia designed the Bay Act to enhance water quality and still allow reasonable development to continue. The Bay Act balances state and local economic interests and water quality improvement by creating a unique cooperative partnership between state and Tidewater local governments to reduce and prevent nonpoint source pollution. The Bay Act recognizes that local governments have the primary responsibility for land use decisions, expanding local government authority to manage water quality, and establishing a more specific relationship between water quality protection and local land use decision-making.

  • The Bay Act is an extension of the public trust doctrine and, like many other environmental protection programs, allows the Commonwealth to manage certain aspects of the environment for the benefit of all Virginians.

The Bay Act Program is the only program in Virginia state government that deals comprehensively with the relationships between water quality, and land use planning and development. It is also the only program that assists local assists local governments with land use planning needs to meet water quality goals: the development of land use regulations, ordinances and comprehensive plans

The lands that make up Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas are those that have the potential to impact water quality most directly. Generally, there are two types of environmentally sensitive lands: Resource Protection Areas (RPAs), and Resource Management Areas (RMAs). RPAs protect and benefit water quality, while RMAs have the potential to damage water quality without proper management. By carefully managing land uses within these areas, local governments help reduce the water quality impacts of nonpoint source pollution and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

More information on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.