Saturday, March 27, 2021

Sen. Yaw Bill Creates New Program To Pay For On-Farm Conservation Measures - If Funded; 2 Other Proposals Would Use Federal COVID Relief Monies To Fund Clean Water Projects

On March 22, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, reintroduced bipartisan legislation--
Senate Bill 465-- creating a new program to help pay for on-farm conservation measures, if it’s funded.

Other sponsors of the bill include Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee, and Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Minority Chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

In October of last year, the PA Farm Bureau, 45 other hunting, angler, business, environmental and watershed groups urged the Senate and House to pass and fund last session’s bill-- Senate Bill 1272-- but the bill did not move out of committee.  Read more here.

A September poll which found 90 percent of Pennsylvania voters want Senate and House members to address important environmental priorities and 9 in 10 Pennsylvanians believe that even in these tough times, state government still needs to find the money to invest in protecting our land, water, and wildlife.  Read more here.

COVID Relief Funding

Sen. Yaw circulated a co-sponsor memo to colleagues last week announcing his intent to introduce legislation to establish a Clean Streams Fund for Pennsylvania with an allocation of $250 million in funding from the federal COVID economic relief program in the American Rescue Plan.

In 2017, Pennsylvania members of the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission, including Sen. Yaw, wrote to all members of the General Assembly to outline the need to address the state’s water pollution cleanup problems and create a dedicated Clean Water Fund for Pennsylvania.  Read more here.

Nothing was ever done.

Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia) and Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) circulated a co-sponsor memo announcing their intent to dedicate $500 million from the federal COVID economic relief program in the American Rescue Plan to create a Growing Greener III Program to “fund many of the projects and program needs identified since the conclusion of Growing Greener II.”

No legislative language was available for either proposal.

There is also a real question about whether the federal COVID relief funds can be used for these purposes.  

The background information available on these proposals did not point to specific language in the American Rescue Plan Act authorizing states to use the monies in this way or in the timeframes needed to spend the money.

State Of Chesapeake Bay

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is scheduled to have an informational meeting April 6 on the state of the Chesapeake Bay.  Read more here.


The new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program would be administered by the State Conservation Commission and county conservation districts.

The program is modeled after the successful Dirt and Gravel Roads Program also administered by the Commission and implemented by districts.

"(A)lmost one-third of our Commonwealth’s streams do not meet standards for drinking, fishing or recreation, and agriculture remains one of the largest sources of impairment," said Sen. Yaw.

"(A)gricultural practices are some of the most cost-effective ways to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution, and they have the double-benefit of improving soil health, nutrient efficiency, and the long-term viability of farm operations."

"This legislation is modeled after the successful Dirt and Gravel Roads program, administered by the State Conservation Commission. Funding is apportioned to local conservation districts based on a formula that considers relative volumes of dirt roads and impaired streams in each district. 

“The Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program would apply similar criteria in driving targeted dollars to areas with the highest need for improvement. Districts would work with participating farmers and landowners to determine the best management practices that will work best for their area.

“This legislation was developed by a collaborative effort of governmental and non-governmental representatives, including the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

“Given the challenges of meeting a 2025 deadline to have all practices in place to meet the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, now is the time for Pennsylvania to enact legislation that will provide a roadmap for meeting those goals,” said Sen. Yaw.

Last year, Sen. Yaw promoted legislation as part of the PA Farm Bill that was signed into law creating the Conservation Excellence Grant Program targeted to the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

This new-- statewide-- program would be a companion to that effort.

Sen. Yaw also serves as Chair of the interstate Chesapeake Bay Commission.

The bill was referred to the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee for consideration.

Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3076 or sending email to:  Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-8925 or sending email to:

How Clean Is Your Stream?

DEP’s Interactive Report Viewer allows you to zoom in on your own stream or watershed to find out how clean your stream is or if it has impaired water quality using the latest information in the draft 2020 Water Quality Report.

(Photo: Award-winning Big Beaver Creek stream restoration project on Plain Sect farm in Lancaster County.)

Related Articles This Week:

-- Senate Committee Sets State Of The Chesapeake Bay Information Meeting April 6 [PaEN]

DCNR Blog: Forested Stream Buffers Grow Clean Water And Local Businesses

Related Articles:

-- Funding Flashback 2017: PA Chesapeake Bay Commission Members Spotlight Need For Clean Water Fund In PA

-- Funding Flashback 2020: Senate Environmental Committee Puts Spotlight On Funding Needed To Implement PA Clean Water Plan At Chesapeake Bay Briefing

-- Chesapeake Bay Foundation: It Takes A Shared Commitment To Stop Killing The Susquehanna And Local Waters

-- CBF: Pennsylvania's Budget Proposal Does Little To Address Chronic Underfunding For Cleaning Up Water Pollution

-- Chesapeake Bay Commission Recommends Increasing Federal Funding For Chesapeake Bay Watershed Cleanup

[Posted: March 27, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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