HARRISBURG – About 200 leaders from municipal governments, county conservation districts, agriculture, environmental groups, water companies, and other entities participated Tuesday in a meeting hosted by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to expand local engagement in Phase 3 of the state plan for improving water quality in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
“After the successful public kick-off of the Phase 3 planning process last June, the steering committee and six work groups—about 80 state and local volunteers—worked to compile data, analyze research and determine the most viable strategies to meet our obligations,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
“Taking a county-level approach is critical if Pennsylvania is to attain its pollution reduction goals.”
Participants in the meeting shared their expertise to help finalize the Community Clean Water Toolbox drafted by the Local Area Goals Work Group, co-chaired by Lisa Shaeffer, director of government relations, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania; Steve Taglang, DEP Bureau of Clean Water; and Davitt Woodwell, president and chief executive officer, Pennsylvania Environmental Council.
The toolbox presents a draft set of local data, resource, engagement, planning and tracking tools available to counties for developing and implementing action plans to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment from streams and rivers.
It quantifies the amount of pollutants reduced so far, current pollutant levels and further reductions needed for each county.
“Rather than a regulatory requirement, the aim is to have counties use these numbers to define their pollutant reduction goals and identify existing and proposed local initiatives that can help meet them,” said McDonnell. The goals are measurable and trackable to ensure progress.
Partners throughout the watershed counties have been working to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment getting into the water by implementing best management practices, such as improved manure management, no-till farming, stream restoration, bioswales, fencing to keep animals out of streams and streambank tree plantings.
“Pennsylvania’s economy, as well as the food supply of our region and beyond, depends on clean water and healthy, viable farms,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said.
“You can’t have one without the other. Our farmers have shown themselves to be conscientious stewards of land and water resources, but meeting the goal of reducing nitrogen going into the Bay by 36 million pounds will take a monumental effort and a fresh approach. This county-level approach is another step toward that goal.”
“Many of our daily activities can affect water quality in our watersheds, so we all can play a role in protecting and improving our local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.
“Efforts to plant trees along streams and conserve forested lands have great momentum now in Pennsylvania, and we’re happy to work with others on the local level to implement these practices for clean water.”
A diverse group of participants from across Pennsylvania’s Bay watershed attended the meeting, with many representatives from Lancaster, York, Adams and Franklin counties. These counties will pilot the toolbox to create their action plans by October.
The toolbox will then be further modified, as needed, for potential use by other counties in the watershed. A timeline for completion of their action plans will be included in the state Phase 3 plan due to EPA early next year.
EPA’s draft pollutant reduction targets for Pennsylvania’s part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are 73.1 million pounds of nitrogen and 3 million pounds of phosphorous. (Final targets are expected this summer.)
To meet these goals, the state needs to eliminate 36.3 million pounds of nitrogen and .8 million pounds of phosphorous.