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Chesapeake Bay Preservation
The Virginia General Assembly enacted the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (Bay Act) in 1988. The Bay Act is a critical element of Virginia's multifaceted response to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. The Bay Act established a cooperative relationship between the Commonwealth and local governments aimed at reducing and preventing nonpoint source pollution. The Bay Act, like many other environmental protection programs, is an extension of the public trust doctrine. The beds of Virginia's streams, rivers, and estuaries and the waters above them are held and managed by the Commonwealth for the benefit of all Virginians.

The program is designed to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by requiring the use of effective conservation planning and pollution prevention practices when using and developing environmentally sensitive lands. At the heart of the act is the concept that land can be used and developed in ways that 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."

Local Government Decisions
The Virginia General Assembly 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, and created a unique partnership between the state and local governments in Tidewater Virginia. The Bay Act recognizes that local governments have the primary responsibility for land use decisions. The Bay Act expands local government authority to manage water quality and establishes a more specific relationship between water quality protection and local land use decision-making.

Stafford County adopted the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act into county code in 1989.