Monday, May 23, 2022

Streambank Stabilization Project At Shirk Farms, Snyder County Highlights Importance Of Farm Conservation Practices To Improving Water Quality

On May 23, representatives of DEP and other partners visited Shirk Farms in Snyder County to view a streambank stabilization project under construction and to discuss the importance of stream and agricultural best management practices (BMPs) as part of the Snyder Countywide Action Plan to improve local water quality in
Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Representatives from project partners included the Fish and Boat Commission, Snyder County Conservation District, and Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy participated in Monday’s tour.

“The series of BMP projects underway at Shirk Farms will improve water quality by decreasing erosion and sedimentation on a tributary to Middle Creek,” said Jason Winey, Snyder County Conservation district manager. “The work at this site is an important early step toward implementing the recently completed Snyder County CAP.”

“DEP is proud to be part of this project and many similar projects funded through a $120,000 Growing Greener award,” said Jason Fellon, watershed manager for DEP’s Northcentral Region. “The BMPs used in this project address major sources of nonpoint pollution and utilize recommendations highlighted in the Pennsylvania Nonpoint Source Management Program.”

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Shirk Farms to make this project possible,” said Lauren Cheran, watershed specialist for Snyder County Conservation District. “They first approached us to improve the stream crossing for livestock. During my initial site visit, our conversation evolved to much more, including the animal walkway, fencing improvements, and stabilizing the eroding streambanks.”

“The Shirk Farms project is an outstanding example of how Conservation Districts can work cooperatively with farmers to achieve their goals through environmentally beneficial techniques,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Jared Dressler.

The project design uses in-stream log and rock structures, such as log vanes and mudsills, to redirect water velocity and pressure away from stream banks and toward the center of the stream channel. 

Reducing stream bank erosion decreases the excess sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus that can smother aquatic life and degrade water quality. The structures also help support macroinvertebrate populations, which are essential for the aquatic food chain.

“Our agency has been building these log and rock structures to create aquatic habitat for decades, but in 2009, we began installing them in a broader range of sites with the intent of stabilizing eroding streambanks and decreasing the sediment entering local streams,” said Cameron Englehart, senior fisheries biologist with the Fish and Boat Commission. “These structures are a win for fish and a win for water quality.”

The agricultural BMPs being constructed at Shirk Farms are equally essential to reducing pollution before it can enter the stream in the first place.

“Keeping livestock out of the riparian area allows vegetation to establish and filter nutrients out of water before entering the stream and also reduces the physical pressure on the stream bank,” said Renee Carey, executive director of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy. “The stream and agricultural practices work in tandem to decrease erosion and sedimentation in the streams.”

These partners and others form the Northcentral Stream Partnership, which works cooperatively to secure funds to assist farmers and landowners who voluntarily opt to install BMPs that improve local water quality. 

To learn more about the Northcentral Stream Partnership and their work in the region, which has been recognized by a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, view DEP’s interactive, multimedia story map.

In addition to the Growing Greener grant, funding for the stream and agricultural BMP work at Shirk Farms was provided by PennDOT and the landowner.

The Growing Greener Program was established by law in 1999 and re-established in 2002 to fund local water quality improvement, recreation and State Park safety and maintenance projects.

Currently, unspent federal funds from the American Rescue Plan could be targeted to accelerate farmers’ efforts to protect soil and water resources, increase farmland preservation, protect open space, improve maintenance of state parks, clean up abandoned mines, restore watersheds, increase trails and parks, help communities address land use, and provide new and upgraded water and sewer systems. 

Click Here to learn more.

“Growing Greener is Pennsylvania’s best known grant program for environmental improvement projects. It’s relied on by many communities that value the quality of life, economic, and resiliency benefits that come from a strong natural ecosystem, and are working to sustain this amid growing pressures from human land use and climate change,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Since 1999, the DEP Growing Greener Plus program has supported more than 2,600 water quality improvement projects by organizations and governments statewide with over $372 million in grants.

The program is funded by the state Environmental Stewardship Fund and Acid Mine Drainage Set-Aside Program and the federal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act.

[Visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed webpage to learn more about cleaning up rivers and streams in Pennsylvania's portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

[How Clean Is Your Stream?

[Check DEP’s 2022 Water Quality Report to find out how clean streams are near you.

[Act NOW! People Need Clean Water, Parks, Protection From Flooding

[The time is NOW to start contacting your state House and Senate members to tell them to set aside at least $500 million from federal American Rescue Fund monies the state already has to support watershed restoration, farm conservation, mine reclamation, protection from flooding, recreation, State Park and Forest safety and maintenance projects.

[Click Here to learn more, take action.]

[Posted: May 23, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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