Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Feature: 2014 Ohio River Watershed Celebration A Success!

The Ohio River Watershed Celebration organizing committee provided this summary of activities from the 13th Annual Celebration on September 18. The theme of the Celebration was “Connected Through Our Streams.” Enjoy!

On September 18 the 13th Annual Ohio River Watershed Celebration held a wonderful and encouraging get-together.  This year we tried something new and really shook things up by taking the event onto land at the 3,000-acre North Park in Allegheny County.   We could not have asked for nicer weather!  
A variety of activities were in several locations within the park including the Rose Barn, the pool, the Boat House, and “Lake Lane.” About 40 different displays from local watershed groups, conservancies, nonprofits, governmental agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and industry had the opportunity to explain how we all are working together to make a positive impact on our environment.  
We especially want to thank all of our Sponsors who donated so generously to make this event possible.  We could not have done it without them.
The event, which focuses on both wise energy use and watershed restoration, kicked off with music from “Acoustic by Dale Mangold” followed by a wide range of special guests with very welcoming and encouraging remarks including:  
-- Allegheny County - Rich Fitzgerald, County Executive
-- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Colonel Bernard Lindstrom, Commander, Pgh District
-- U.S. Coast Guard – Lt. Ariana Mohnke & Marine Sci. Tech. First Class Jennifer Haggins, Pgh Waterways Branch
-- Allegheny County Parks Foundation - Caren Glotfelty, Director
-- Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources - Kristen Carter, Econ. Geol. Div. Mgr. & Nathan Flood, Dep. Sec.  
-- Department of Environmental Protection - Ronald Schwartz, Asst. Regional Director, Southwest Region
-- Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds - John Dawes, Executive Director
-- Town of McCandless - Toby Cordek, Manager
In addition, several speakers provided interesting and informative presentations throughout the afternoon in the Rose Barn on a variety of topics including:
-- “The Pine Creek Story” – Bill Moul, North Area Environmental Council
-- “History of DEP’s Abandoned Mine Drainage Treatment Efforts” – Pam Milavec, PADEP Div. of Watershed Res.
-- “Progress Toward a Sustainable Southwestern Pennsylvania” – Matt Mehalik, Carnegie Mellon University
-- “Restoration of Heth’s Run” – Bob Haney, Morningside Area Community Council
-- “Microhydropower Facility Utilizing Mine Drainage” – Tim Danehy, BioMost, Inc.
While a few displays were set up at the Rose Barn, most of the displays were located along “Lake Lane” where people could take a nice stroll and visit with all of these great organizations to learn about all of the good work they are doing!  
Other activities along “Lake Lane” included macroinvertebrates with the Kiski-Connemaugh StreamTeam and a demonstration of a water sampling drone hexcopter by Russ Stutzman.  We were honored to host the first-ever public demonstration of the water-sampling drone. (See photo)
At the Boathouse, people could take advantage of free canoeing on the lake thanks to the Fish and Boat Commission.  We heard from several people that it was their very first experience canoeing!  
In the parking lot in between the boathouse and “Lake Lane” were a variety of electric and natural gas, alternative fuel vehicles including vehicles from Peoples Natural Gas, Blue Bird Bus Sales, Veterans Taxi, ProGas Inc., Giant Eagle, and McCandless Sewer Authority.  Star Transportation Group provided a $100,000 Tesla that is part of their limousine fleet.   In addition, the DEP’s Radiation Protection vehicle was on-site.
The propane-fueled Blue Bird Bus was also used for the Pine Creek Watershed Tour which provided the participants the opportunity to learn about the efforts of the Pine Creek Watershed Association and the North Area Environmental Council that are certainly making a difference.  
Highlights of the tour included:  Habitat improvement & streambank restoration at Hampton Sewage Treatment Plant; Natural Stream Channel design for erosion prevention & streambank restoration at Shaler Twp. soccer park Innovative stormwater capture at Etna Borough Rain garden at Shaler Twp. Municipal building
Activities For Kids
Once again this year, there was a special section of the ORWC set-aside just for kids and their families.  The Imagination Station was organized this year by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania and was held at the pool area.  
There were 13 different activity stations hosted by 11 different organizations providing a variety of educational opportunities and information on topics such as bird walks, native seeds, macroinvertebrates, urban watersheds, littering, green walls, rain barrels, etc.  In addition, there were live animals from the Pittsburgh Zoo and a falconry demonstration by the National Aviary.
Poster Contest
Each year ORWC poster contest highlights the positive efforts and impacts that small local groups are doing to address watershed issues.  Cash prizes (1st place - $500; 2nd place - $250) are awarded to the watershed groups in four categories.  
Andy McAllister and Anne Daymut of WPCAMR announced the following award winners:   
--Most Innovative Program: Allegheny Cleanways, Cowanshannock Creek Watershed Association
-- Best Overall Display: Crooked Creek Watershed Association, Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center
-- Best Partnership Effort: Roaring Run Watershed Association, Kiskiminetas Watershed Association
-- Community Education & Outreach: Pine Creek Watershed Coalition, 3 Rivers Rain Garden Alliance.
Watershed Group Cash Awards
Thanks to the wonderful, wonderful generosity of our sponsors, special awards were also given this year to recognize the participation of watershed groups in the event.  The amount of the award was based upon the number of years in attendance.  
-- 1 Year ($50): Pine Creek Watershed Coalition; Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association; 3 Rivers Rain Garden Alliance
-- 2-5 Years ($100): Allegheny Cleanways; Kikiminetas Watershed Association; Evergreen Conservancy; Friends of the Riverfront
-- 6-12 Years ($200): Cowanshannock Creek Watershed Association; Crooked Creek Watershed Association; Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center
-- 13 Years - Every Year ($500): Kiski-Conemaugh StreamTeam; Raccoon Creek Watershed Association; Roaring Run Watershed Association; Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition
Thanks to all of our Sponsors and Partners for making this a wonderful and educational learning experience!  Thanks also to all participants, who were very gracious in understanding that this was our first land-based event, and who joined in to work with us to make the day so enjoyable and memorable!  
2014 ORWC Sponsors
We want to again thank all of our Sponsors who donated so generously to make this event possible.  We could not have done it without them.
-- GOLD: Peoples Natural Gas; Foundation for PA Watersheds; Anonymous
-- SILVER: Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh; Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh; Municipal Authority of West View; Former DEP Secretary David E. Hess; Range Resources; Seneca Resources; UPMC
-- BRONZE: American Water Works Assn. - SW PA Section; Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering, Inc.; Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities, Inc.; PA American Water; John and Arlene Ham
-- DONOR: PASEC– Indiana County, Robert and Sylvia Danehy; Tim and Annette Danehy, Dr. Joe Porecca; Anne Daymut, Dennis Tubbs, Diana Stares
-- IN-KIND SPONSORS: Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Drainage; Department of Environmental Protection; Blue Bird Bus Sales of Pittsburgh; Stream Restoration Incorporated; Fish and Boat Commission; Mad Mez/Big Burrito Group; Allegheny County Parks; Biomost, Inc.; PlasTie, Inc.
-- SUSTAINER: Charlie Cooper, Barrie Gibbs, Maggie Hall, Jeffrey Pfeifer, Robert Westgren
2014 ORWC Partners
Aerotech Design, ALCOSAN, Allegheny Cleanways, Allegheny Co. Conservation District, Allegheny County Parks, American Waterworks Association, Armstrong County Conservation District, Audubon Center for Native Plants, Audubon Society of Western PA, Beaver County Conservation District, Bidwell Training Center, BioMost, Inc., Blue Bird Bus Sales of Pittsburgh, Chatham University, Community College of Allegheny County, Conservation Consultants, Inc., Cowanshannock Creek Watershed Assoc.,
Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center, Crooked Creek Watershed Association, Dollar Energy Fund, Duquesne University Center for Environmental Research and Education, Etna Borough, Evergreen Conservancy, Fossil-Free Energy Fair, Fox Chapel Borough, Friends of North Park, Friends of the Riverfront, G.A. Wozniak & Associates, Giant Eagle, Group Against Smog & Pollution (GASP), Hampton Township, Harsco Metals & Minerals, Independence Conservancy,
Isagenix, Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, Kiskiminetas Watershed Association, Latodami Nature Center at North Park, Lawrence & Mercer ALLARM, Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering Inc., McCandless Sewer Authority, National Aviary– Pittsburgh, Outdoor Classroom, PA American Water, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry– Forbes State Forest, Department of Environmental Protection, DEP Environmental Education, DEP Radiation Protection, Fish and Boat Commission,
Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association, Pine Creek Watershed Coalition, Pine Township, PITTCON, Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities, Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, Peoples Natural Gas Company, PlasTie, LLC, ProGas Inc., Roaring Run Watershed Association, Saint Francis University, Shale Media Group, Shaler Township, Sharp Edge, Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition, Smicksburg Cheese, Society of Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Southwest Planning Commission,
Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh, Stream Restoration Inc., Stutzman Computers, Sustainable Pittsburgh, Tireless Project, Town of McCandless, UPMC, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard Pittsburgh, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, U.S.  Office of Surface Mining, Veteran’s Taxi, Washington County Watershed Alliance, Washington & Jefferson College, West View Water Authority, Western PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (WPCAMR)
If you want see more fun photos, check out the Ohio River Watershed Celebration Facebook page or on the Ohio River Watershed Celebration website.

3 Public Meetings In October For Comments On PA Outdoor Recreation Plan

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti Tuesday announced the department will hold three public meetings across the state to collect comments on a draft of Pennsylvania’s five-year Outdoor Recreation Plan which guides outdoor recreation programs, policies and projects.
“Our outdoor recreation plan analyzes the recreation needs of Pennsylvanians, including challenges, opportunities and trends,” Ferretti said.  “It also outlines a strategy to address Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation future with 20 recommendations and more than 80 action items. We’d like to know from participants if we’re on the right track.”
The following are the dates and locations for the public meetings:
-- October 7, 5 to 7:30 p.m.: hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society  at its headquarters, 100 North 20th Street, first floor town hall, Philadelphia. Register by calling 215-988-1698.
-- October 8, 5 to 7:30 p.m.: hosted by Dauphin County Parks and Recreation at the Centennial Barn at Fort Hunter Park, 5300 North Front Street, Harrisburg.  Register by sending an email to: mbaratucci@dauphinc.org.
-- October 9, 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: hosted by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy at Schenley Park Skating Ring, Overlook Drive, Pittsburgh. Event begins with a disc golf demonstration. Register by sending email to Heather Sage at: hsage@pittsburghparks.org.
All sessions will begin with a brief overview at 5:30 p.m., followed by an open house with different stations where participants can learn more and provide feedback.
Registration is requested for all events.  Light refreshments are included.
Public comment will be accepted on the website from October 6-31.
The completed plan keeps Pennsylvania eligible for federal Land and Water Conservation funding.
More information, visit the PA Outdoor Recreation Plan website.

Treasury Launches Financing Program For Advanced Energy Improvements

Local governments, schools, universities, and hospitals that want to reduce energy consumption or use alternative energy sources will have a new option for financing those improvements thanks to an innovative partnership between the Pennsylvania Treasury, the private sector, and leading nonprofits in the energy space.
State Treasurer Rob McCord and Dr. John Byrne, who shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and is chairman and CEO of the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment, announced Tuesday the creation of a Sustainable Energy Bond Program in Pennsylvania. The program will provide legal and technical assistance, as well as low-cost capital, for energy improvement projects by municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals – the so-called MUSH sector.
“Treasury has built a successful track record of investing in energy efficiency projects that create jobs, save consumers money, and contribute to a healthier environment – even as they generate strong returns at little risk,” said Treasurer McCord. “We’ve done so by working with innovative professionals to design secure investment vehicles that will attract capital and serve unmet needs in the market. This program builds on that work.”
Under the Sustainable Energy Bond Program, participating organizations in the MUSH sector will receive free energy audits from energy service companies, or ESCOs. Once potential projects have been identified and the project sponsors (municipalities, universities, schools or hospitals) decide to proceed, a bond will be issued to finance the improvement work.
By aggregating the projects, participants will receive better financing terms. The energy cost savings from the projects will be used to finance the bond.
An ESCO wishing to participate in the program must prequalify and agree to a common set of legal terms and performance standards relating to project design, savings guarantees, compliance verification, and corrective actions if necessary.
The Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment, a founding partner in the program, will oversee the ESCO prequalification process and administer the program. Dr. Byrne helped to establish the model for this program in Delaware.
”It is a distinct pleasure to work with the Pennsylvania Treasury, a nationally recognized leader in clean energy finance,” said Dr. Byrne. “Our aim is to help participants cut their utility bills by 20 percent or more through guaranteed self-financing investments in energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation while using the lowest financing cost in the market.”
The West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund was also an instrumental funding partner. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit provided a $150,000 seed grant to pay for the up-front legal and technical work necessary to launch the program.
“The WPPSEF provided the necessary start-up funding to spur energy efficiency improvements within the MUSH sector. We would like to see technologies that can further reduce a facility’s electric and thermal load deployed across the state,” said Joel Morrison, WPPSEF’s director.
Other partners in the program include the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath, which will prepare contracts and analyze legal issues with potential projects. Becker Capital will conduct financial analyses of each project and underwrite the bond issuance.
A number of other organizations, including other sustainable energy funds in Pennsylvania, have committed to supporting and promoting the program through a number of education days to be held throughout the state in coming weeks.
Treasury’s role is to administer the WPPSEF grant and help to promote the program. Treasury also expects to act as a lead investor in the bond, so long as the issuance meets the department’s fiduciary investment criteria.
“The MUSH sector represents one of the most promising sectors for energy efficiency improvements in this country,” said Treasurer McCord, “but there have been a host of barriers preventing these organizations from making the up-front investment that will yield long-term savings. This program is designed to eliminate those barriers in order to build a more sustainable energy future for our economy.”
For more information, visit the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment website.

EPA Honors 2 PA Manufacturers With Energy Star Award

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday recognized two Pennsylvania industrial facilities with the Energy Star Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Award for their highly efficient CHP systems—energy production systems that decrease energy costs and reduce their carbon emissions, which cause climate change.
The companies are: Janssen R&D LLC, Spring House and Merck, West Point both in Montgomery County.
“The companies recognized today with the Energy Star Combined Heat and Power Award are leading by example and reducing carbon pollution equal to the generation of electricity used by more than 63,000 homes, and have reduced their combined energy costs by over $54 million annually,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The CHP technology offers a strategy to help meet the goals of the President’s Climate Action Plan for a cleaner power sector while boosting the efficiency and competitiveness for many U.S. manufacturers.”
CHP systems used by the award winners achieve operating efficiencies of between 62 and 78 percent—much higher than the efficiency of conventional production of electricity and thermal energy, which can be less than 50 percent.
CHP, also known as cogeneration, simultaneously produces electricity and steam or hot water from a single heat source, using traditional or renewable fuels. By recovering and using heat typically wasted by the conventional production of electricity, CHP gives U.S. manufacturers a competitive edge by minimizing production costs while reducing carbon pollution.
CHP is ideally suited for many industrial facilities as it provides reliable and cost-effective electricity and heat for a variety of manufacturing processes, including the production of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, where energy costs can be a significant portion of operating costs. By generating electricity on site, the systems also reduce demands on the nation’s electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure.
EPA is presenting the awards at the Energy Star Industrial Partner and Focus Meetings in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.
Established in 2001, EPA's voluntary CHP Partnership program seeks to reduce the environmental impact of power generation by promoting the cost-effective use of CHP. The partnership works closely with energy users, the CHP industry, state and local governments, and other clean energy stakeholders to facilitate the development of new CHP projects and to promote CHP’s environmental and economic benefits.
For more information, visit EPA’s Combined Heat and Power Partnership or Energy Star Industrial Program webpages.

Get Outdoors With Special Events By The Wildlands Conservancy

Special programs on geocaching, beekeeping, fall foliage, bats and much more highlight the Fall schedule of events sponsored by the Wildlands Conservancy in Lehigh County.  Click Here to learn more.

Calendar Of Oct. And Nov. Events At Lackawanna College Environmental Ed Center

A calendar of October and November events is now available at the Lackawanna College Environmental Education Center website.

PEC Urges Senators To Oppose Bill Eliminating Stream Buffers In HQ, EV Watersheds

The PA Environmental Council Tuesday wrote to all members of the Senate Tuesday urging them to oppose House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) eliminating the nearly 4 year old requirement for stream buffers in High Quality and Exceptional Value streams if it comes up for a vote in the five remaining days of legislative session.
The text of the PEC letter follows--
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), I am writing to express our opposition to House Bill 1565 (P.N. 4116). This legislation would eliminate the existing requirement of a riparian buffer or forested riparian buffer for new development requiring a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit in a High Quality or Exceptional Value watershed.
It is important to note that the existing buffer requirement is only triggered by the need for an NPDES permit in those limited watersheds, and therefore does not apply to existing landowners and their current land use. Further, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Department) regulations (25 Pa Code Section 102.14) already provide a long list of exceptions to the buffer requirement.
This requirement can also be exempted through a waiver from the Department. In her January 29, 2014 testimony before the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, Deputy Secretary for Water Management Kelly Heffner could not recall a single instance where such a waiver was denied.
In other words, existing law already provides ample flexibility. Passage of this legislation could in fact invite new federal review of permitting activities in Pennsylvania; particularly in the Susquehanna / Chesapeake Bay watershed where targeted pollution reduction requirements and strategies are already in play.
Riparian buffers prevent property damage and the expense of flooding, an issue that has been a priority for the General Assembly over the past several years. Buffers also dramatically reduce stormwater management costs; help keep streams free of sediment; reduce the cost of treating water for potable uses; and in general, promote and sustain healthier communities.
House Bill 1565 is unnecessary and could result in undesired consequences for Pennsylvania. For additional perspective, please see this note from David Hess, former Secretary of the Department.
We strongly urge you to oppose this bill. Thank you for your consideration.
John Walliser
Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Environmental Council

Former DEP Secretary Urges Senators To Oppose Anti-Stream Buffer Bill

David E. Hess, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary under Governors Ridge and Schweiker, wrote to all members of the Senate Tuesday urging them to oppose House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) eliminating the nearly 4 year old requirement for stream buffers in High Quality and Exceptional Value streams if it comes up for a vote in the five remaining days of legislative session.
The text of the letter follows--
The science is clear and the economics are indisputable, forested stream buffers are the most effective and least-costly best management practice you can install to help prevent pollution of our streams and rivers, stabilize stream banks and improve habitat for fish and other aquatic life.
But don’t believe me, research by Pennsylvania’s own Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, world-recognized experts on stream buffers and watershed ecology, and decades of experience on the ground have proven it.  A large and growing body of scientific evidence clearly indicates there is no practice more effective or less costly.
Nearly four years ago the Department of Environmental Protection adopted a rule requiring stream buffers, not along all streams, but only in High Quality (HQ) and Exceptional Value (EV) Watersheds, 4 percent of the watersheds in Pennsylvania.
To provide flexibility, the rule provided nine different exemptions and six different waivers from the requirement, including for single family homes not part of a development, maintenance of pipelines, and for oil, gas, timber and mining operations.  In January DEP told the House they did not recall a single instance when a waiver was not granted.  
The House also heard overwhelming opposition to House Bill 1565 from environmental, conservation, sportsmen’s groups and from the Monroe County Conservation District which has decades of real-world experience with development where nearly all the county’s streams are HQ or EV.  I would note Monroe County is the second fastest growing county in Pennsylvania.  Its population increased more than 70 percent since 1990.
House Bill 1565 would take away the stream buffer requirement without any scientific or independently verified evidence of any problems it is creating.  I know, because I met with the Builders Association.
When I was Secretary of DEP under Governors Ridge and Schweiker, I visited every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties at least twice and saw first-hand how simple tools like stream buffers, many times installed by volunteers and funded by the Growing Greener Program matched by local support, improved water quality.
That improved water quality made it easier to use streams and rivers as sources of drinking water, meet water quality standards and helped restore fishing on streams that hadn’t seen a fish in decades.  More than one grandparent came up to me and said how happy it made them to be able to take their grandkids to a local stream to fish.  As a grandparent now myself, I’ve come to appreciate these comments even more.
In the five voting days remaining, you may be asked to vote on House Bill 1565.  As you make your decision, I would encourage you to look at the clear scientific evidence and decades of on-the-ground experience supporting the effectiveness and economics of stream buffers versus the lack of any documented problem with the requirement from the other side.
If there are problems with the way the rule is administered, let’s tackle those issues, not throw out one of the most effective tools we have to improve water quality.
Pennsylvania is facing significant mandates to meet water quality standards under the federal Clean Water Act in every watershed in the Commonwealth, as well as in special areas like the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie and Ohio River Watersheds.  
To deny us the use of tools like stream buffers in our best watersheds will impose additional costs on taxpayers they can ill afford in today’s economy.
I encourage you to vote against House Bill 1565.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about this issue and my experience with stream buffers.  Call me at 717-576-0420 or send email to: DHess@CrisciAssociates.com.
The bill is also opposed by PA Environmental Council, Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the PA Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Fish and Boat Commission, PA Council of Trout Unlimited and PA League of Women Voters.

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