Monday, April 26, 2021

DEP: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Schuylkill, Susquehanna Counties To Begin Countywide Clean Water Action Plans

On April 26, the Department of Environmental Protection announced Lackawanna, Luzerne, Schuylkill, and Susquehanna counties have taken the first significant step to improving the health of local waterways. 

The counties, with the assistance of DEP, are creating DEP Countywide Action Plans (CAP) to identify projects that will reduce nutrient and sediment pollution in the Susquehanna River and its tributaries and are looking for local groups to get involved.

The effort is part of the state-coordinated Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan to improve water quality to benefit local communities, economy, and quality of life in Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, while meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution reduction requirements for the bay.  

“The CAPs provide counties with the data and planning resources they need to identify projects that will help advance local community and economic development goals, while reducing pollution in the Susquehanna and other local waters,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. 

The CAPs are designed to, among many things, identify best management practice (BMP) projects in each county that can decrease the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, two leading sources of pollution, in local waterways. 

Some of those projects could include stream bank and floodplain restoration, streamside tree plantings, culvert replacement, streambank fencing, and many others. 

They also provide farmers with tools to implement BMPs on their properties, in particular, effective management of manure, another source of pollution in waterways. 

Cover crops, soil and water conservation planning, and agriculture erosion and sediment control are among many others. 

County participation in the CAPs is voluntary and the plans will be administered by county conservation districts. 

Lackawanna, Luzerne, Schuylkill, and Susquehanna counties join 30 others in Pennsylvania’s share of the watershed developing CAPs. Eight counties have completed their plans and begun implementing projects. 

Community engagement is an important aspect in implementing effective CAPs, so each county is in the process of engaging stakeholders in the effort to improve local waterways. 

If any environmental or watershed groups are interested, they can contact their local county conservation district.

Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Susquehanna joined together to hire the consulting firm Larson Design Group out of Lititz to create and implement their CAPs. Larson will create separate plans specific to the needs of each county. 

Schuylkill County hired LandStudies, Inc., also out of Lititz, to create and manage its plan. 

The consultants’ work was funded by Environmental Stewardship Fund grants from DEP.

Pennsylvania made record progress in 2019-2020 in the watershed, achieving its sixth largest annual phosphorus reduction. Wastewater treatment plants contributed 61 percent, their second largest annual phosphorus reduction in 35 years. 

Farms contributed 25 percent of the nitrogen reduction and 32 percent of the phosphorus reduction, which is their largest annual phosphorus reduction since 2010. 

Better accounting of implementation of nutrient and sediment reducing practices, such as the state-required agricultural erosion and sediment control and nutrient and manure management plans, was one contributing factor.

The four northeast counties are planning to begin carrying out their CAPs in September. 

PA Chesapeake Bay Plan

For more information on Pennsylvania’s plan, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office webpage.

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.

Related Articles:

-- NRCS-PA Awards Lancaster Clean Water Partners $7.4 Million To Restore Streams On Agricultural Lands In Lancaster County

-- Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition Intern Gets His Feet Wet In Data Logger Project

[Posted: April 26, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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