Monday, December 17, 2018

PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee Presented With Most Detailed Recommendations Yet

On December 17, the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee was presented with the most detail recommendations yet from its workgroups on what should be in the plan for cleaning up local streams and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Agriculture, Forestry, Stormwater and Wastewater workgroups presented detailed “templates” with their recommendations, expected nutrient reductions, agency and local partners responsible for implementation, timelines, challenges, resources available and resources needed for implementation.
Not all the blocks in the templates were filled out, but DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell was pleased with the progress so far.
“The kind of detail we have now in the templates is more information than we’ve ever had at this point in the planning process,” said McDonnell.  “We are also bringing a rigor to the process of developing recommendations we have never had before and we are engaging communities around the watershed asking them what they want for their communities.  It’s exciting.”
Wastewater Workgroup
The Wastewater Workgroup presented its recommendations to the Steering Committee for the first time.  The group pointed out wastewater treatment plants have already met their targets of reducing nutrient loads by 95 percent after a significant financial investment.
The Workgroup recommendations included--
-- Beef up DEP’s wastewater treatment plan optimization program
-- Incentivize plant optimization through an operation and maintenance grant program
-- Require a nutrient reduction alternatives evaluation for Biological Nutrient Removal before any major infrastructure improvements
-- Recommended expansion of local onlot septic system maintenance programs
The Workgroup recommended against requiring across-the-board Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) at wastewater plants.
Available handouts from the Workgroup at the meeting--
Stormwater Workgroup
The Stormwater Workgroup Recommendations Template added more detail to the 5 core recommendations made in the group’s initial report to the Steering Committee in November.  The recommendations included--
-- Changes to the MS4 Stormwater Pollution Reduction Program
-- Changes to the Industrial Stormwater Pollution Reduction Program
-- Encouraging the installation of new riparian forest buffers
-- Additional Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination controls
-- Adoption of legislation to control the application of commercial fertilizer
Available handouts from the Workgroup at the meeting--
Forestry Workgroup
The Forestry Workgroup added more detail to the recommendations it made to the Steering Committee in July.  They revolve around 5 key areas--
-- Increasing Riparian Forest Buffers: Sets a goal of adding 80,500 acres of buffers on agricultural land and 3,100 acres of buffers in developed areas.
-- Increasing Tree Canopy: Sets a goal of planting 15,000 individual trees in developed areas
-- Increasing Woods & Pollinator Habitat: Sets a goal of converting 5,000 acres of lawn into woods and 5,000 acres of lawn into meadows
-- Increasing Forest And Natural Area Conservation: Sets a goal of 20,000 acres annually
-- Increasing Stream And Wetland Restoration: Sets a goal of 60,000 linear fee annually for stream restoration and 400 acres of wetland annually
Available handouts from the Workgroup at the meeting--
Agriculture Workgroup
The Agriculture Workgroup said they did not add significantly to the recommendations they made to the full Steering Committee in July except to put them into the template format.  The recommendations included--
-- Agricultural Compliance: Sets goals of having farm conservation plans on 90 percent of crop and hay lands, proper runoff controls on 90 percent of feed/barnyard areas on permitted CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Farm Operations) and 67 percent of feed/barnyard from others.  Yields: 8.1 million pound nitrogen reduction, 236,000 pound phosphorus reduction at an estimated cost of about $30.5 million.
-- Forested And Grassed Buffers: Sets a goal of 25 percent of agricultural land along streams with a buffer of at least 35 feet in width and 15 percent of other land adjacent to streams with a 35 foot width, both with fencing to exclude animals from streams. Yields: 8 million pounds of nitrogen, 1 million pounds of phosphorus at a cost of $44.9 million.
-- Practices for Improved Soil Health: Sets a series of goals for residue management, use of cover crops, prescribed grazing. Yields: 7.6 million pounds nitrogen reduction, 327,300 pounds of phosphorus at a cost of about $30.3 million.
-- Enhanced Manure Storage Facility Development: Sets goals of 90 percent of swine and poultry operations and 75 percent of other livestock operations.  Yields: 7 million pounds of nitrogen, 303,900 pounds of phosphorus at a cost of $204.6 million.
-- Elimination of Excess Manure: Among the options are transporting manure out of the Bay Watershed, but no specific recommendations made.  Yields: 957,000 pounds of nitrogen, 181,500 pounds of phosphorus at an unknown cost because no specific recommendations were made.
-- Enhanced Nutrient Management Planning On Lands Not Receiving Manure: Sets a goal of nutrient plans on 20 percent of crop land not receiving animal manure. Yields: 817,000 pounds of nitrogen, 44,200 pounds of phosphorus at a cost of $18.1 million.
-- Precision Feeding & Management of Diet: Sets a goal of 33 percent of dairy operations adopting precision feeding.  Yields: 610,000 pounds of nitrogen, 61,200 pounds of phosphorus at a net cost reduction of $1.7 million.
The total impact of these recommendations are a nitrogen reduction of over 33.3 million pounds-- about 63 percent of the reduction goal-- and 2.1 million pounds of phosphorus-- about 106 percent of the reduction goal-- at an estimated cost of about $327 million annually.
The Workgroup is still accepting comments on the template version of their recommendations.
Available handouts from the Workgroup at the meeting--
Pilot Counties
Nicki Kasi, Director of DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office, said they are hoping to have presentations from the 4 pilot Clean Water Planning Counties-- Adams, Franklin, Lancaster and York-- on the agenda for the January Steering Committee meeting outlining the recommendations they developed.
The other major workgroups-- Funding and Local Area Goals-- may also present their findings at the January or February.  The Funding Workgroup, in particular, may be later because they base their recommendations on the needs identified by the other workgroups.
PA In the Balance Conference Feb. 6-8
Kasi also announced there will be another PA In The Balance Chesapeake Bay Conference February 6-8, 2019 hosted by the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center.
The 2016 PA In The Balance Conference and its follow-up identified new and innovative solutions for addressing clean water issues involving agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Available Meeting Handouts
DEP was having technical issues posting handouts from the Steering Committee meeting on its website.  Here are the available handouts discussed at the meeting--
The next scheduled meeting of the Steering Committee is January 16 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg from 1:00 to 4:00.  Click Here to register to attend by webinar.  Participants will also need to call in 1-650-479-3208, PASSCODE 642 304 985.
For more information, visit the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee webpage.
(Photo: Forested buffer on ag land from Forestry Workgroup report.)
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