Tuesday, October 4, 2016

NRCS, EPA, PA Commit Another $28 Million For Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Work In PA

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday announced they will be committing an additional $28 million for farm conservation work in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed drainage area, according to a press release by the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council.
The announcement was made at the Council meeting in the Virginia State Arboretum in Boyce, Virginia.
NRCS will provide $12.7 million, EPA an additional $1 million ($3 million was made available in March by EPA) and Pennsylvania an additional $11.8 million, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The additional investments made by EPA, USDA and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will amplify Pennsylvania’s efforts in achieving their local and Chesapeake Bay water quality goals in 2016-2017, while working on necessary longer-term measures to meet their 2025 goals.
These additional resources, will accelerate nutrient reductions by:
-- Implementing agricultural conservation practices that reduce nutrients on farms in southcentral Pennsylvania;
-- Providing more technical assistance to help farmers implement agricultural conservation practices that are effective at reducing nutrients; and
-- Leveraging innovative private sector partnerships, private capital, and markets to magnify the benefits of these investments.
This joint strategy will accelerate nutrient reductions from Pennsylvania agriculture, strengthen existing and build new long-lasting partnerships to assist farmers, provide agriculture-led initiatives with staying power and protect investments made by downstream states.
“What remains clear is that Pennsylvania has been, and continues to make strides toward protecting and improving local water quality, but we know that we have additional work to do to make sure every producer is operating in a way that minimizes impacts to local water quality, and ultimately to the Bay,” Gov. Wolf said. “We must continue to develop and deploy effective targeting in high-priority areas, support community-based and locally-led approaches to conservation, collaboratively seek new funding opportunities, and engage all stakeholders – federal, state, local, public, private, non-profit – in our approach to local water quality.”
“All across the state, we have countless farmers who are doing the right thing to protect local water quality, and we have others who want to do the same, but simply lack the resources — particularly in this economic climate where many commodity prices are historically low,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “As part of our restoration strategy, we have committed to finding new funding to help farmers meet the commonwealth’s water quality improvement obligations. Now, thanks to the Governor’s leadership and the support of our federal partners, we have $28 million in new resources dedicated to helping our farmers.”
“DCNR has committed a new pool of grant funds and is devoting more staff time to planting forest buffers along streams in the Bay watershed of Pennsylvania,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Using our own staff experts, from foresters to grant staff to natural resource staff on our state parks, we can expand current buffer planting in Pennsylvania and provide showcase projects for others to adopt.”
“DEP’s priority is to protect local water quality for Pennsylvanians, and thereby help protect the Bay for all,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We’re working to accomplish this through a strategic, collaborative partnership with state and local agencies.”
Executive Council members—including Virginia Governor and Executive Council Chair Terry McAuliffe, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair Thomas McLain ‘Mac’ Middleton (Maryland Delegate) and representatives from Delaware, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia —met to review the state of the Chesapeake Bay Program and set guidance and goals for the coming year.
“We are seeing real progress through our ongoing collaboration with local, state, regional and national partners to restore the Chesapeake Bay and the creeks and rivers that feed it” said Executive Council Chair, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe., “Our legacy to future generations must include the preservation of this unique resource, which is so crucial to the Commonwealth’s quality of life and our work to build a new Virginia economy.”
The Executive Council also agreed to help further accelerate the pace of Bay restoration by signing a resolution to support local government engagement; commending the actions taken by local governments and local utilities to address their pollution reduction goals within the wastewater sector, and committing to raise awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of investing in watershed protection and restoration efforts at the local level.
The Council also elected Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe as Chair for a second term.
In June 2014, Executive Council members signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, with the vision of fostering an environmentally and economically sustainable watershed with clean water, abundant life, conserved lands and access to the water, a vibrant cultural heritage, and a diversity of engaged citizens and stakeholders.
For the first time, the Bay’s headwater states of Delaware, New York and West Virginia participated as signatories and full partners in the Bay Program and our watershed-wide work.
Executive Council Chair, Gov. McAuliffe, will meet with the Council’s three advisory committees on October 6, 2016 to discuss local government, citizen and scientific recommendations.
The Citizens Advisory Committee, the Local Government Advisory Committee and the Science and Technical Advisory Committee annual reports to the top Chesapeake Bay Program leadership and all other materials from the day are available on the Council’s 2016 meeting page.
Harry Campbell, executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania, issued this statement after the announcement that pollution reduction efforts in the Keystone State would receive an additional $28.7 million in federal and Commonwealth funds.
“It is a good day for all of us who care about cleaning up the rivers and streams in Pennsylvania that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. The additional funding provided by this collaborative federal and state effort is a much-needed down payment that must lead to meaningful progress in closing Pennsylvania’s pollution reduction gap and getting it back on track toward meeting its Clean Water Blueprint goals.
“In calling for additional funding, CBF analyzed federal agency data and found that prioritizing new resources in people, places and practices in five priority counties in south-central Pennsylvania would most efficiently and cost-effectively jumpstart its lagging cleanup efforts. Those counties generate the most pollution from agriculture.
“According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, agriculture is the leading source of impairment to Pennsylvania waters. While some farmers are willing to install conservation practices that will reduce pollution, many are turned away every year because of a lack of resources available to assist them.
“This new federal and state funding will allow more farmers in the Commonwealth to plant streamside buffers, reduce runoff from barnyards, get the required management plans, and other measures critical to the health of Pennsylvania waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Half of the freshwater that flows into the Bay comes from the Susquehanna River Basin.   
“In addition to reducing pollution, increased federal and state funding will create jobs and benefit local economies.
“Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania are damaged by pollution and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its Clean Water Blueprint goals. Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Blueprint requires that 60 percent of pollution reduction practices be in place by 2017, and 100 percent in place by 2025. The Commonwealth has acknowledged that it will not meet the 2017 goal.
“We appreciate the efforts of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and others in making this funding possible.
“These new investments will not complete the job, but provide a welcome boost toward getting the Commonwealth back on track to the clean water that is a right of every Pennsylvania resident. Work must accelerate toward leaving a legacy of clean rivers and streams that future generations deserve.”
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the CBF-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here for a copy of CBF-PA’s most recent newsletter.
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