Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Highlights PA Legislative Priorities For 2024

Increased and sustained funding for farm practices, and more streambank fencing are among what the
Chesapeake Bay Foundation sees as legislative priorities for Pennsylvania in 2024.

According to Pennsylvania’s Draft 2024 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Report (Integrated Report), 28,820 miles of waterways in the Commonwealth have been damaged by pollution.   [Read more here]

CBF continues to urge legislators and Gov. Josh Shapiro to accelerate the Commonwealth’s commitment to clean water and follow the Clean Water Blueprint for success.

Funding For Farm Practices

“It is imperative that the Governor and General Assembly be proactive in the next state budget, and to increase dedicated investments of financial and technical resources into the Clean Streams Fund and Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program,” said Julia Krall, CBF Executive Director for Pennsylvania.

Soils and nutrients running off of agricultural lands and into rivers and streams is the leading identified source of impairment according to the Integrated Report.

The Pennsylvania legislature created the CSF in 2022 with a comprehensive spending package of $220 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). 

The CSF dedicated $154 million to ACAP as investments to be funneled through conservation districts for local agricultural practices to reduce polluted runoff.

The State Conservation Commission continues to distribute ACAP funds to all 67 Pennsylvania counties. 

According to the SCC, $140 million of ACAP’s $154 million have been committed for projects to reduce nutrient and sediment (soil) pollution. Of 366 approved applications, 217 have been contracted, 92 are active, and 21 have been completed.

“Increased and sustained investments through ACAP are critical if the Commonwealth is to meet its clean water commitments,” Krall added. “ARP funding will run out in the next few years, and Pennsylvania will still have a lot of work to do.”

Healthy Herds & Streams

While ACAP does not prioritize specific conservation practices, CBF believes that reducing unrestricted livestock access to local streams should be another legislative priority.

CBF has been working with legislators and agricultural interests on improving and amending House Bill 677, which would eliminate a current prohibition within the Commonwealth on requiring streambank fencing, when needed.

Reducing or even eliminating unrestricted access to streams is good for herd health, stream health, and public health. It also can benefit the farm’s economy.

Direct deposits of manure by farm animals standing in streams seriously degrade water quality and threaten the health of animals and people. Livestock in streams can introduce pathogens to surface water, the source of drinking water for most Pennsylvanians. 

Herd health and milk and beef production are known to improve when livestock have clean water to drink.

Native Plants Along State Roads

CBF is also urging the Pennsylvania House to pass a bill that would direct the state Department of Transportation to landscape state-owned roads using native plant species. 

With more than 41,600 miles of state-maintained roads, House Bill 797 would help deliver a plethora of ecological benefits across the state, reduce polluted runoff, and add more natural beauty for those traveling through the Commonwealth.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest carbon dioxide emitter in the country, according to the Energy Information Administration. Greenhouse gases continue to pose significant threats to personal and economic health, the quality of local rivers and streams, and to climate stability.

Because of greenhouse gases and climate change, Pennsylvania is expected to experience higher temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events, and more flooding over the next century. 

As the temperature of local waters continues to rise, so does the vulnerability of aquatic life like brook trout, the Eastern hellbender, and other species.

As rainstorms become more frequent and more intense, so does the concentration and amount of polluted runoff that enters our rivers and streams. 

More flooding means more potential for loss of life and property.

“CBF looks forward to working with the Governor and legislators on these issues, so we can leave a legacy of clean water for future generations,” Krall said.

For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here to support their work.

Also visit the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership to learn how you can help clean water grow on trees.

CBF has over 275,000 members in Bay Watershed.

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?

The draft 2024 report has an interactive report viewer that allows you to zoom in to your own address to see if the streams near you are impaired and why.

Click Here to check out your streamsClick Here for a tutorial on using the viewer.

Related Articles:

-- Tioga County Couple Honored By Susquehanna River Basin Commission For Unwavering Efforts To Restore Tioga River Watershed  [PaEN]

-- National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Awards $1.8 Million In Chesapeake WILD Grants To Restore Freshwater Mussels, Other PA Projects  [PaEN] 

[Posted: December 19, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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