Monday, June 26, 2023

House Environmental Committee Hears Progress Report On Cleaning Up PA’s Portion Of Chesapeake Bay Watershed

On June 26, the
House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee heard an update from key stakeholders on efforts to clean up Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Majority Chair of the Committee, opened the hearing saying Pennsylvania has 27,000 miles of streams that are "unfit for aquatic life, recreation, drinking water supply."

He noted DEP's water quality program has only enough staff to assess stream quality once every 30 years. 

"The budget we are currently working on has the potential to fund some of this shortfall and deal with some of these problems," said Rep. Vitali.

Jill Whitcome, Director of DEP’s Bureau Of Watershed Restoration, provided a general update on efforts to clean up Pennsylvania’s waterways to meet its Chesapeake Bay Watershed obligations.

“Since DEP’s 2020 Integrated Water Quality Report, more than 144 stream miles have been reassessed as restored in Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay watershed, including the largest Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) restoration in recorded history [in Elk County].

“This progress is being made because of the engagement and empowerment of local partners, but also because there is funding supporting the efforts of those local partners.  DEP’s existing Growing Greener grants program has continued to invest in water quality improvement programs and projects statewide, netting most of the restoration successes of streams and lakes across the Commonwealth.  

“New DEP programs include the flexible CAP Implementation “block grant” program, which allocated Growing Greener grant funds to accelerate implementation of priority projects identified by Pennsylvania counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  

“The 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill initiated the new Conservation Excellence Grant (CEG) and the Keystone Tree Fund was enacted that year to fund riparian forest buffer and urban tree canopy projects.  

“The latest new funding program, the Clean Streams Fund, is serving as a significant boost to agriculture conservation funding through the Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program as well as funding toward stormwater management (Act 167 Stormwater Management Planning) and wastewater infrastructure (H2OPA and Small Sewer and Water Projects).  

“Improvements to existing programs include streamlining data management systems, using a centralized geodatabase system for conservation districts and grantees to track their program-related and grant-funded outputs, which reduces the reporting and administrative burden.”

“We at DEP can’t do this alone.  There is not one single entity that can be all things to all people.  The Bureau is driven by collaboration with our partners, stakeholders, and Commonwealth residents.”

Whitcome noted 100% of the counties in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to develop local clean water plans joined the program.

“As you know, trust is the foundation of all strong relationships.  The Bureau has invested the time to build trust, and demonstrate trustworthiness, through transparent communication and reliable follow-through of our commitments with our partners.  

“I’ve brought along a handout that I’d like to share with you – these are testimonials from our local leaders, partners, and residents.  [Read more here.] It’s one thing to hear me talk about the importance of investing in water quality, but it’s even more important to read what Pennsylvania residents have to say.

“We can only provide the support our local partners need to improve, restore, and protect waters of the Commonwealth if we have the necessary resources to do so; otherwise, our commitments are just words on paper and a plan on the shelf.”

“In summary, we have built momentum from the ground up, to ensure clean water for Pennsylvania’s communities and residents.  We are demonstrating success with investing funds and resources in areas of greatest need in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and we continue to make improvements in our programs to support and advance the progress being made locally.  

“We need to continue to support our local leaders and partners.  

“Enhanced long-term dedicated funding, through the Commonwealth’s statewide Environmental Stewardship Fund and DEP’s Growing Greener grants program, as well as other statewide programs, such as the State Conservation Commission’s Agriculture Conservation Assistance Program and DCNR’s Keystone Tree Fund, will go a long way to support efforts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the Commonwealth.”

Chris Hoffman, President of the PA Farm Bureau, said, “Pennsylvania farmers are the Commonwealth’s “front-line environmentalists,” in the words of EPA Region III Administrator Adam Ortiz, adapting to a constantly changing climate and investing their own funds to install best management practices (BMPs) that protect the soil, air, and water. “

“Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry has heard—and taken seriously—the message that protecting and improving the Commonwealth’s local water quality is the best way to meet its Chesapeake Bay obligations.”

“This vital work improves the quality of life for every Pennsylvanian, whether one resides in the Chesapeake Bay watershed or not, by protecting the waterways we all enjoy and depend upon and ensuring a reliable, safe, and affordable food, fuel, and fiber supply in an increasingly competitive, growing, and expensive global marketplace.”

“PFB was proud to work with federal, state, and local officials, as well as partner stakeholders like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-Pennsylvania (CBF-PA) and the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts (PACD), to enact the long-sought Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP).”

Hoffman noted DEP inspected almost 2,700 agriculture operations in the Bay watershed from July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 and found well in excess of 90% met best management practice implementation requirements for manure management planning, BMP implementation and maintenance as well as erosion and sedimentation control planning.

“PFB will continue to be actively engaged in finding solutions to Pennsylvania’s water quality challenges. We will work with all individuals and groups interested in helping us farm more and farm better to feed, clothe and fuel a growing world.

"...Recognizing what is achievable with current levels of financial, technical, and human resources and in turn, being realistic with the public and policymakers about what can be achieved, all while continuing to advocate for the additional financial and human resources that will allow for faster progress. 

“Helping Pennsylvania farmers advocate for long-term, dedicated agricultural conservation funding, as well as helping to grow the technical support workforce needed to do the actual BMP design and implementation, is the optimal method for generating the expedited results we all seek.”

Trisha Salvia, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, started with recognizing the “historic move last year of creating the Clean Streams Fund and allocating $220 million of federal monies to the programs. 

“The programs in the Clean Streams Fund address the three major causes of nonpoint source pollution in Pennsylvania. They are agricultural runoff, abandoned mine drainage and stormwater water runoff from developed land.”

“Another success was last year’s passage of the fertilizer bill. When it comes to lawn fertilizer, more is not better. Not only can excess fertilizer be a waste of money, but it can also run off into nearby storm drains and streams, even the groundwater, where it causes algal blooms and other damage to water quality.”

Among the next steps Salvia recommended was passage of House Bill 677 (Sturla-D-Lancaster) that discourages farmers from using techniques to exclude farm animals and their manure from streams.

“Fencing livestock out of streams is mentioned as a tool in the Phase 3 WIP to help with soil health and nutrient reductions in Pennsylvania’s plan to clean up local streams and the Chesapeake Bay downstream.”

“Landmark investments from the new ACAP are significant down-payments to protect and improve our rivers and streams, health and quality of life, and the economic viability of the family farm. 

“But as the $154 million is spent over the next three years, a sustainable and dedicated funding source will be needed to allow Pennsylvania to leverage this momentum and amplify the efforts towards cleaning our local waters.

“Pennsylvania farmers have shown time and again that they are willing to spend their own time and money to keep precious soil on the land instead of in the water. But they can’t do it all on their own.”

Timothy Schaeffer, Executive Director PA Fish and Boat Commission, noted the Commission established a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Habitat Unit in 2020 with financial assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Our staff in this unit facilitate streambank and floodplain restoration efforts within the working agricultural landscape.  Specifically, we provide technical guidance and construction oversight in collaboration with our many project partners.  

“These partners include federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, county conservation districts, private landowners, and non-governmental organizations including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, to name a few. “

“Between 2020 and 2022 our agency was able to complete 80 streambank and floodplain restoration projects that improved 13.5 miles of streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and in 2023 the Commission expects to complete another 39 projects that will enhance nearly 7.2 miles of instream and riparian habitat.”

Marel King, PA Director Chesapeake Bay Commission, provided a regional context to the discussion of Chesapeake Bay Watershed nutrient and sediment reduction efforts, in particular efforts to attract more federal funding.

“The Commission is also working with our Congressional delegation to improve federal Farm Bill opportunities as those programs are expected to be reauthorized this year, and to utilize the new USDA Chesapeake States’ Partnerships Initiative to direct significant funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to the region, especially Pennsylvania.

“Many of these programs use tools that enable us to target funds to the locations and practices that will achieve the greatest reductions for the least cost. Some of the “most effective basins” in the entire Bay watershed are in Pennsylvania, especially in the Lower Susquehanna region.”

“Our challenge going forward is maintaining momentum with existing programs, while also considering new and innovative ways to get conservation practices on the ground.

“Key to success is making sure that any work we do “for the Bay” is meaningful to people at the local level.

“One-third of Pennsylvania’s own rivers and streams do not meet water quality standards. By improving the water quality here in Pennsylvania, we not only improve downstream waters, but we get the added benefit of improved fishing opportunities, flood control and property values locally.”

Copies of written testimony--

-- Jill Whitcome, DEP Bureau Of Watershed Restoration Testimony

-- Chris Hoffman, PA Farm Bureau Testimony

-- Timothy Schaeffer, PA Fish & Boat Commission Testimony

-- Marel King, PA Director Chesapeake Bay Commission Testimony

-- Trisha Salvia, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Testimony

Click Here to watch a video of the hearing.

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.

How Clean Is Your Stream?

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

Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to: Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5075 or by sending email to:


-- PA Capital-Star: PA House Panel Talks Challenges Of Cleaning Up Chesapeake Bay, Local Waterways

-- Lancaster Farming: Fencing Livestock Out Of Streams Next Front For PA Water Regulations

-- Chesapeake Bay Journal: Debate Resumes On Conowingo Dam Pollution Problems

Related Articles - Chesapeake Bay:

-- Guest Essay: Support Increased Funding In 2023 Federal Farm Bill That Benefits Small Family Farms, Landowners, Cleaner Rivers And Streams  [PaEN]

-- Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership Plans To Plant 500,000 More Trees Across PA During 2023 [PaEN]

-- CBF: Proposed Settlement Of Lawsuit Against EPA For Failing To Hold Pennsylvania Accountable For Meeting Chesapeake Bay Water Pollution Reduction Goals Focuses On Actions In 7 PA Counties [PaEN]

NewsClips This Week - Watersheds:

-- TribLive: Murrysville Will Use $2 Million To Clean Mine Drainage In Lyons Run Watershed In Westmoreland County 

-- PA Capital-Star: PA House Panel Talks Challenges Of Cleaning Up Chesapeake Bay, Local Waterways

-- Lancaster Farming: Fencing Livestock Out Of Streams Next Front For PA Water Regulations

-- Lancaster Clean Water Partners: Lancaster Clean Water Fund Now Accepting Grant Cycle 2 Letters Of Intent By July 14

-- York Dispatch: Storm-2-Street Art Contest Raises Awareness Of Stormwater Pollution And Boosts Local Artists

-- Explore Jefferson County: PA Great Outdoors - Improvements To Gallagher Run

-- Scranton Times: Clarks Summit Council Hears Details, Costs Of Regional Stormwater Plan In Lackawanna County

-- Scranton Times Editorial: Smart Regional Cooperation On Stormwater Management Saves Money

-- Brodhead Watershed Assn.: July 15 Creek Snorkeling For Students In The Upper Brodhead In Monroe County

-- Partnership For The Delaware Estuary News: Microplastics Are Forever; Growing Big, Strong Freshwater Mussels; Predicting Sea Level Rise; Much More!

-- Lehigh Valley-based Wildlands Conservancy Highlights Bushkill Creek, Tunkhannock Creek Restorations; Seeking Volunteers For Stream Team! June Is Rivers Month

-- Delaware RiverKeeper June 30 RiverWatch Video Report

-- Delaware RiverKeeper: Environmental Activists Host A ‘Last Baby Shower’ For The Endangered Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon

-- Delaware RiverKeeper ‘Baby Shower’ For Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon - Video

-- Erie Times: NOAA Wants Public Comment On Proposed Lake Erie National Marine Sanctuary

Related Article This Week - Watersheds:

-- Environmental Quality Board Meets July 11 To Consider Changes To Water Quality Standards; DEP Reports Law Limiting Its Authority To Change Conventional Oil & Gas Well Bonding May Be Unconstitutional [PaEN]

-- DEP Citizens Advisory Council Meets July 11 On Programs To Promote Use Of Electric Vehicles; Chapter 105 Environmental Assessment Alternatives Analysis  [PaEN]

-- House Environmental Committee Hears Progress Report On Cleaning Up PA’s Portion Of Chesapeake Bay Watershed  [PaEN]

-- Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement At 40: Perspectives On Pennsylvania From Former DEP Secretary, EPA Region 3 Administrator Jim Seif - By Jill Whitcomb, Director Of DEP's Bureau Of Watershed Restoration

-- DEP Chesapeake Bay Program Health Waters, Partnership, Progress June Newsletter: County Updates; Grants, Accomplishments, Much More!

-- USDA NRCS Announce $500 Million In Funding To Expand Conservation Reserve, Workings Lands For Wildlife, Environmental Quality Incentives Programs

-- Western PA Conservancy Watershed Conservation Program Receives U.S. Forest Service Award For Decades-Long Work To Improve Water Quality In The Allegheny National Forest  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Starts Accepting Applications For Next Round Of Federally-Funded Abandoned Mine Reclamation Grants For Locally-Sponsored Projects July 3  [PaEN]

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - June 24 to 30 - Radiation Levels Prompt Shale Gas Wastewater Tank Decontamination; Replugging Conventional, Shale Gas Wells  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Invites Comments On Individual Stormwater Permit For 4,000 Acre ‘Conservation’ Housing Development Next To Hickory Run State Park In Carbon County  [PaEN]

-- Capital RC&D, PA Grazing Lands Coalition To Host July 18 Rotational Grazing Pasture Walk In Northampton County  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension: Meadow Repository - Resources For Planning, Planting Meadows  [PaEN]

[Posted: June 26, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner