Gov. Wolf Announces $17.4 Million to Improve Local Water Quality for Chesapeake Bay Watershed
December 16, 2021
Governor Tom Wolf today announced $17.4 million in grant funding for projects in 33 counties across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, highlighting their path-breaking work to improve the health of local streams, rivers, and lakes by reducing nutrient and sediment pollution.
“Pennsylvania has begun to achieve real change to improve the health of the watershed, thanks directly to hard work being done by county-level teams of government, nonprofit, and private-sector partners,” said Gov. Wolf. “It’s crucial that their unprecedented momentum be sustained by broad support. Their actions will benefit our drinking water, protect the long-term viability of our farms and outdoor recreation economy, and help our communities reduce flooding and attract business.”
Nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) pollution and eroded sediment enter streams, rivers, and lakes from widely dispersed human activities on the land, such as using too much fertilizer, plowing and tilling farm fields, stripping away trees and vegetation, and expanding concrete and paved surfaces. Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed spans half the state and includes over 12,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers.
The funding announced today includes $15 million from the Pennsylvania Environmental Stewardship Fund, primarily the Growing Greener Program, and $2.4 million from EPA. Grants support coordination of Countywide Action Plans, implementation of pollution-reducing best management practices (BMPs), and verification to ensure that BMP projects maintain their pollutant reduction goals.
“With 26 counties developing plans this year, all 34 counties that were asked to develop Countywide Action Plans to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution have now completed them,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Reaching this exciting milestone attests to the growing understanding among landowners and community leaders of the value of healthy water ecosystems to Pennsylvanians’ quality of life and livelihoods. DEP is committed to supporting these local partnerships as they follow now with action.”
The 2021 grant funding is geared toward enabling county teams and partners to build on the record progress Pennsylvania is making in the watershed.
Nitrogen runoff pollution was reduced by more than 4 million pounds in 2020, with half the reduction coming from agriculture and half from the wastewater treatment sector.
More than a half million acres of cropland were in compliance for nutrient and manure management practices last year.
Farmers used enhanced nutrient management on more than 305,500 acres of cropland in 2020. Going above and beyond standard nutrient management, this approach applies fertilizer in a 4R approach: right time, right source, right place, and right rate.
“Increasingly, farmers recognize that soil, nitrogen, and phosphorus running off the land into streams is a symptom of a farm operating at less than peak efficiency. For many, the pandemic underscored the importance of ensuring their farm’s future viability, which requires stewardship of their soil and water today,” said Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
In addition, last year more than 17 miles of stream were fully restored, and tens of thousands of trees were planted, many through programs by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Along with multiple state and sector initiatives, Countywide Action Plans are a key component of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan to improve water quality to benefit Pennsylvanians, while meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements for the bay.
This year 22 counties completed individual Countywide Action Plans, and four (Blair, Cambria, Fulton, and Huntingdon) collaborated on one plan. They join Lancaster, York, Franklin, and Adams counties, which completed their plans in 2019, and Bedford, Centre, Cumberland, and Lebanon counties, which completed plans last year. Teams in all counties have begun carrying out planned projects or are transitioning to implementation.
Supporting County-Level Action for Healthy Waters
DEP leaders announced grant awards to county teams during visits today to three sites in the watershed: Brilyn Acres, small cattle grazing farm in Ephrata; the Lycoming County Conservation District in Montoursville; and the Lackawanna County Conservation District in Scott Township.
The following counties received funding to coordinate and implement Countywide Action Plan projects and verify BMPs:
- Adams County Conservation District: $177,900
- Bedford County Conservation District: $637,047
- Bradford County Conservation District $510,779
- Centre County Government: $590,500
- Chester County Conservation District: $569,954
- Clinton County Commissioners: $344,505
- Cumberland County Commissioners: $283,750
- Franklin County Conservation District $1,184,222
- Lackawanna County Conservation District: $409,379
- Lancaster County Conservation District: $3,583,216
- Lebanon County Conservation District: $729,796
- Lycoming County Commissioners: $527,391
- Montour County Conservation District: $729,331 for Montour, Columbia, and Sullivan counties
- Snyder County Conservation District: $966,491 for Snyder and Union Counties.
- Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission: $253,000 for coordination and verification in Blair, Cambria, Fulton, and Huntingdon counties
- Tri-County Regional Planning Commission: $1,877,315 for Dauphin, Perry, Juniata, and Mifflin counties
- York County Planning Commission: $1,329,517
The following counties received funding to implement Countywide Action Plan projects:
- Blair County Conservation District: $166,470
- Cambria County Conservation District: $173,506
- Clearfield County Conservation District: $248,691
- Fulton County Conservation District: $204,442
- Huntingdon County Conservation District: $311,526
- Luzerne Conservation District: $94,962
- Northumberland County Conservation District: $544,946
- Potter County Conservation District: $126,415
- Schuylkill Conservation District: $344,320
- Susquehanna County: $239,011
- Tioga County Conservation District: $335,729
“Achieving Lancaster County’s nitrogen and phosphorus reduction goals requires sustainable funding and unique support. Thanks to this kind of flexible grant from DEP, we’re closer to clean and clear water. Our farms, streams, climate, and built environment will all benefit from the inspirational projects these dollars make possible,” said Allyson Gibson, Strategic Partnership and Program Director of Lancaster Clean Water Partners.
“We want to do our part and implement BMPs to be a good steward of this beautiful land God has blessed us with,” said the owners of Brilyn Acres farm, which will receive some grant funding to improve manure storage. “We trust that with the installation of these BMPs, we’ll be helping to preserve the banks along Cocalico Creek and not have a negative impact on the water quality of the creek and surrounding streams. The BMPs will greatly improve how we handle water runoff and manure storage here at Brilyn Acres.”
Pennsylvania takes a Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities approach to improving the health of the watershed, inviting county teams to take control of local water quality improvement, with state and other partners providing as much data, technical assistance, funding, and other support as possible. It encourages and equips counties to develop strategies and determine project sites and types that will benefit their communities and farmers, municipalities, businesses, and other landowners, while restoring the environment.
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