Monday, June 12, 2017

Susquehanna River Basin Commission: 40% Reduction In Municipal Permit Fees, Streamlined Regulatory Process

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission Monday told members of the House State Government Committee a three-year intensive management reorganization has resulted in a more than 40 percent reduction in municipal permit fees, overall streamlining of its regulatory process and creation of a Public Water Supply Assistance Program to offer technical assistance and further fee reductions to small municipal water supply systems.
Testifying at a public hearing of the House State Government Committee, SRBC Executive Director Andrew Dehoff, P.E., said that an entirely new management team installed over the past three years took a very aggressive approach responding to concerns expressed about SRBC operations from regulated communities.
“There has been a lot of attention on water quality lately, both in Pennsylvania and nationwide. And safe drinking water is certainly critically important,” Dehoff said. “But the quality of the water is irrelevant if nothing comes out when you turn on the tap. That’s SRBC’s unique role, and that’s why for nearly 40 years we have been reviewing and approving withdrawals of water from groundwater wells.”
Dehoff explained the SRBC’s groundwater rules are designed “to ensure that communities have sustainable, reliable sources of water to provide to their homes, businesses and industries.”
While the Department of Environmental Protection is charged with ensuring water purity and drinkability, SRBC focuses on the quantity of water and the reliability of sources. “Sustainable and reliable, to us, means that their sources can continue to provide needed water, even during times of drought, and can do so without conflict.”
He said one of the lingering issues is that many towns are counting on old, unproven wells to supply water for future growth. “Our long-term goal is that communities will collect the information they need to provide certainty that their groundwater sources will meet long-term needs.”
Dehoff praised the operators of water supply systems in the Basin. “The men and women that make up the boards of the water authorities and townships and boroughs they serve are exemplary public servants,” the SRBC head said. “They are conscientious and dedicated to doing what is right for their communities.”
He also summarized some of the many projects undertaken using SRBC funding to enhance, expand and improve water supplies in the Susquehanna River Basin. One Commission effort involves restoring abandoned coal mining sites in Clearfield, Indiana and Schuylkill Counties.
“The project in Schuylkill County isn’t yet complete, but in Clearfield and Indiana counties we are observing wild trout living and thriving in waterways that haven’t supported trout in a century,” Dehoff said.
“In Cumberland County, we partnered with a community to address a recurring sinkhole problem that also is helping the township meet its state and federal stormwater requirements,” he noted.
SRBC also assisted the Lancaster County Planning Commission with water aspects of their County Comprehensive Plan, and completed a study of favorable groundwater locations to assist in development planning.
[Editor’s Note: Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) said at the hearing “SRBC exceeds its authority when it regulates groundwater.”  This statement is wrong, since the Susquehanna River Basin Compact specifically says the Commission “may regulate and control withdrawals and diversions from surface waters and ground waters of the basin” Article 11 Regulation of Withdrawal and Diversions; Protected Areas and Emergencies.]
[Editor’s Note: House Republicans last week passed House Bill 922, co-sponsored by Rep. Moul, Rep. Will Tallman (R-Adams) and others opposed to what the SRBC does, removing new SRBC employees from the State Employees Retirement System.  The move will only increase costs to SRBC and member states like Pennsylvania and make SRBC raise fees.]
For more information about programs,  initiatives and upcoming training and other events, visit the Susquehanna River Basin Commission website.  Follow SRBC on Twitter.  Visit SRBC’s YouTube Channel.

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