Tuesday, December 13, 2016

DEP Takes First Steps In Process To Update State Water Plan

The Department of Environmental Protection Monday took the first steps in what it expects to be a 2-year process to update Pennsylvania’s State Water Plan adopted in 2009.
The Plan was required by Chapter 31 of Act 220 of 2002.  The first Plan was to be adopted 5 years after the Act was signed into law and updated every 5 years thereafter.
The Plan consists of inventories of water availability, an assessment of current and future water demands and trends, assessments of resource management alternatives, and proposed methods of implementing recommended actions.
It also analyzes problems and needs associated with specific water resource usage such as navigation, stormwater management and flood control.
Key components of the 2009 State Water Plan included:
-- An innovative Water Use Analysis Tool to determine where water demands may exceed available water supply;
-- A Statewide and Regional Atlas to illustrate regional trends using maps, charts, pictures and text descriptions;
-- Water Plan Principles Document that includes policies, priorities and legislative recommendations and other suggestions to protect and enhance Pennsylvania's water resources;
-- Registration and reporting regulations for large water users; and
-- Guidelines for identification of Critical Water Planning Areas.
Advisory Committees
The Plan was put together with the help of six regional advisory committees representing each of the major river basins in the Commonwealth and a Statewide Water Resources Advisory Committee with a total of membership of 169 individuals representing a broad cross-section of stakeholders.
As a first step in its update process, DEP Monday notified the original members of the regional advisory committees to see if they are interested in continuing to serve.
Once any gaps are identified in membership, DEP will be moving to fill those vacancies with the goal of having the groups meet for the first time in March or April to start the update process in earnest.
2009 Water Recommendations
DEP is also starting to review the State Water Plan Principles, including Recommendations for Action made in the Plan, to determine which ones have been accomplished, those that remain to be done and others that may no longer be relevant.  (Click Here for an Executive Summary.)
Among the legislative recommendations were--
-- Enact legislation to require proficiency-based licensing and certification of water well drillers [introduced in 2001 as House Bill 1591 (Dailey-R-Montgomery) but not enacted];
-- Establish statewide private water well construction standards [introduced as House Bill 48 (Godshall-R-Montgomery) in 2015 but not enacted];
-- Encourage the development and implementation of Integrated Water Resources Plans [introduced as Senate Bill 452 (Erickson-R-Delaware) in 2011 but not enacted];
-- Integrate existing state and federal stormwater management regulations, policies and requirements (e.g. Storm Water Management Act, Sewage Facilities Act, Municipalities Planning Code, Chapters 102 and 105, NPDES, MS4, TMDLs) to provide an effective, straightforward, seamless stormwater management program that is blind to regulatory origin.
-- Authorize by legislation, regulation, or policy the creation and operation of local Authorities, Utilities or Management Districts, and/or other sustainable funding sources that would enable entities to collect fees and generate revenues dedicated to planning, constructing, monitoring, maintaining, improving, expanding, operating, inspecting and repairing public and private stormwater management infrastructure [adopted in part as Senate Bill 351 (Erickson-R- Delaware) Act 68 in 2013 authorizing the formation of stormwater authorities and House Bill 1325 (Mustio-R-Allegheny) authorizing stormwater fees by townships of the Second Class Act 62 in 2016 and introduced by not enacted in 2016 as House Bill 1394 and House Bill 1661 (Mustio-R-Allegheny) that would have authorized stormwater management fees by boroughs and townships of the First Class].
Water Quantity Data
DEP continues to collect water use data from ground and surface water users who withdraw 10,000 gallons per day of water in any 30-day period as required by Act 220.
The agency has also been coordinating the collection of water data with the Delaware, Potomac and Susquehanna river basin commissions and the U.S. Geologic Survey.
Unfortunately, much of the data that was posted on DEP’s website and in the State Water Plan Atlas is no longer available online.
One of DEP’s major objectives is to get this updated information organized and posted online so local governments and other stakeholders can use the data for water resources planning purposes.
DEP hopes to be in a position of using the water yield assessments and ground and surface water data to designate green, yellow and red watersheds that show clearly which ones have adequate, available water supplies, which ones may have problems in the future and watersheds that have problems now supplying users with enough water to meet their needs.
Critical Water Areas
Another provision of Act 220 called for the designation of Critical Water Areas where the State Water Plan showed the use of available water supplies is now or is projected to fall short of meeting the demands of water users.
In January 2011 DEP proposed to designate 4 Critical Water Areas-- Back Creek Watershed in Fayette County, Laurel Hill Creek Watershed in Somerset County, Marsh Creek and Rock Creek Watersheds in Adams County.
For a variety of reasons, these designations were never finalized.  DEP hopes to finalize these designations as part of the State Water Plan update.
The move to update the State Water Plan is coming in part as a result of a change in the structure of DEP announced in December 2015 to organize the agency’s water resources planning functions under Kelly Heffner, the Special Deputy Secretary for Water Resources Planning.
Heffner said the initiative was launched now, in part, because of drought conditions now worsening across the state, but more importantly, because updating the Plan was important work that should be done.  The Plan update is already years late.
As PA Environment Digest has noted, water resource programs in DEP have suffered more than others because they are support by General Fund monies.  General Fund support for DEP has been cut by 40 percent over the last 13 years and DEP has lost 22 percent staff.
Staff time and resources were simply not available to do tasks like water planning before the reorganization.
For more information on the State Water Plan, visit DEP’s Division Of Planning and Conservation and State Water Plan webpages.  Questions should be directed to David Jostenski, Drought Coordinator/State Water Plan Manager, DEP Office of Water Resources Planning, by calling 717-772-5659 or send email to: djostenski@pa.gov.

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