Tuesday, July 19, 2022

DEP Submits Final Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Watershed Plan To EPA With New State Funds Supporting Partners’ Progress

On July 19, the Department of Environmental Protection announced it has submitted the
final state Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It includes significant new funding from the 2022-23 state budget to support and accelerate the progress partners are making on water quality improvement.  Read more here.

“This well-grounded plan reflects and advances the extraordinary actions to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution launched by local partners across Pennsylvania’s share of the watershed during the Wolf Administration,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh.

Evaluating the previous version of the plan, EPA highlighted the need for more state funding to enable farmers to modernize to best management practices (BMPs) that reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in streams, rivers, and lakes.

The state budget provides $320 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to the Commonwealth Financing Authority to enable municipalities statewide to carry out water and sewage treatment projects. 

It provides $220 million in ARPA funding for a new Pennsylvania Clean Streams Fund.

The Pennsylvania Clean Streams Fund will establish a new Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program to help farmers implement water quality best management practices (BMPs). 

The Clean Streams Fund will also enable DEP to reinvigorate the Act 167 Stormwater Management Planning Program to provide grants to municipalities to plan and carry out stormwater runoff reduction measures. 

The fund will support DEP’s abandoned mine drainage reclamation, the Department of Agriculture’s assistance to farmers for development and implementation of nutrient management plans, and urban tree planting by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

All these initiatives will help improve the health of Pennsylvania streams and rivers, preserve topsoil and farm viability, lessen flooding in fields and neighborhoods, and support outdoor recreation and tourism and their considerable related economies.

“The significant budget funding is a tremendous boost to Pennsylvanians who are working to reduce water pollution and all who enjoy the benefits of healthy waters,” said Ziadeh. “We hope future administrations will sustain this unprecedented momentum.” 

In addition to including the new state funding, the final Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan reinforces that Countywide Action Plans are the keystone of Pennsylvania’s pollutant reduction strategy, achieving the largest nitrogen reduction in the plan: 16.8 million pounds.

The final plan also quantifies nutrient and sediment pollution reductions attained by several state programs that, until now, have not been fully counted. 

More than 15 million pounds of sediment, 611,000 pounds of nitrogen, and 19,000 pounds of phosphorus have been removed from local waters through the DEP Nutrient Credit Trading Program; Chapter 105 construction-related wetland restoration, establishment, or preservation; industrial and construction stormwater management; the DEP Act 537 Sewage Facilities Program; municipal waste landfills; and land recycling.

The final plan continues to call for EPA computer modeling of bay pollution levels to be updated to include BMPs that Pennsylvania landowners put in place over 10 years ago and BMPs that have been installed in Pennsylvania on a geographic scale larger than what the model currently accommodates.

Click Here for a copy of the final plan.

Pollution Reduction Progress

Monitoring and other data show water quality improving in Pennsylvania. The U.S. Geological Survey 2020 Nutrient Report shows long-term improving trends on nutrient levels in the Susquehanna and Potomac river basins.

Recent EPA research on nutrient-use efficiency over time shows Pennsylvania’s nutrient use is moving in a positive direction: Levels of agricultural surplus nutrients are decreasing, as farmers are applying fertilizer more effectively and efficiently.

The draft 2022 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Report shows 77 stream miles in Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed restored to standards for drinking water, aquatic life, fish consumption, or recreation. 

This includes 32 miles of aquatic life use restoration in the Bennett Branch Sinnemahoning Creek, a tributary to the West Branch Susquehanna River, which is the largest recorded acid mine drainage restoration in Pennsylvania history.

Like the other jurisdictions in the watershed — New York, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia — Pennsylvania committed to having programs and practices in place to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution levels by 2025. 

Pennsylvania committed to reduce nitrogen by 32.5 million pounds and phosphorus by 0.85 million pounds.

Under the Wolf Administration, Pennsylvania has made unprecedented progress. The Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Plan reports nitrogen reduced by 6.77 million pounds and phosphorus by 300,000 pounds as of 2020.

Nutrient pollution and eroded sediment enter streams, rivers, and lakes from dispersed human actions on the land, such as using too much fertilizer, plowing and tilling farm fields, stripping away trees and vegetation, and expanding concrete and pavement.

Pennsylvania takes a Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities approach to improving the health of the watershed, inviting county teams to take control of local water quality improvement, with state and other partners providing as much data, technical assistance, funding, and other support as possible. 

State partners encourage and equip counties to develop strategies and determine project sites and types that will benefit their communities and farmers, municipalities, businesses, and other landowners, while restoring the environment.

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.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates on Pennsylvania’s progress.


Harry Campbell, Science Policy and Advocacy Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Pennsylvania offered this statement on the plan--

“Of particular significance is the creation of a statewide program called the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program, to help Pennsylvania farmers design and implement conservation practices that keep nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution out of local rivers and streams.

“Significant and sustainable investments that close the funding gap found in the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plans are essential to providing reasonable assurance that Pennsylvania will meet its clean water commitments. 

“To achieve the Commonwealth’s commitments to clean water, that funding must be continued in future budgets.

“As in the previous revision and rejected by EPA, Pennsylvania’s new plan calls for EPA to count clean water practices that Chesapeake Bay Program scientists have not authorized to be counted toward the state’s progress, including those expected from state programs but that require further investigation.

“The Clean Water Act requires EPA to ensure the Bay states design and implement plans to meet their clean water commitments. As for Pennsylvania, EPA must continue to provide oversight and accountability to ensure that the Commonwealth reaches its Blueprint goals.”

How Clean Is Your Stream?

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

Related Articles:

-- Final State Budget Includes Nearly $700 Million In Funding To Support Local And State Environmental, Recreation Infrastructure Projects!  [PaEN]

-- Bay Journal: Chesapeake Bay Model Missing Huge 5 Million Chicken Operation In PA And Their 5 Million Pounds Of Nitrogen Leading To Questions About Model’s Accuracy - By Karl Blankenship

[Posted: July 19, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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