January 2023

Hello partners for water quality!

We have much news to share on progress by state, local, and sector partners to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution and improve water quality in Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
For more details on the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan and Countywide Action Planning, visit the Phase 3 WIP website. For a broader educational look at nutrient and sediment pollution in local streams, rivers, and lakes in the watershed, including tips and success stories, visit Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities.
Please consider how you might join in or help support this work. Anyone interested in their county’s Phase 3 WIP County Wide Action plan can sign up to get involved. And help spread the word! Share this newsletter or the subscribe page.  
— DEP Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management

Governor Shapiro nominates Richard Negrin as Secretary of Environmental Protection and retains Secretaries Cindy Dunn at Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Russell Redding at Department of Agriculture 

Governor Shapiro has nominated Richard Negrin to serve as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. He serves as DEP Acting Secretary until a state legislative confirmation hearing in the spring. Governor Shapiro retains Cindy Dunn as DCNR Secretary and Russell Redding as Agriculture Secretary.
Mr. Negrin most recently served as Vice President of Regulatory Policy and Strategy and Head of External Affairs at Commonwealth Edison, the largest electric utility in Illinois. There he led development of clean energy regulatory policies and strategies to increase the use of renewable energy, spur the adoption of electric vehicles, and increase energy efficiency.
Prior to ComEd, Mr. Negrin served as Deputy Mayor of Administration and Coordination and Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia. He served as Vice-Chair of the independent Philadelphia Board of Ethics and as Vice President and Associate General Counsel of ARAMARK Corporation. Mr. Negrin was a litigator with the global law firm of Morgan Lewis, and he served as a prosecutor in the Major Trials Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Negrin has served on the Board of Directors for a number of community organizations, including Congreso de Latinos Unidos, and is a former President of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania.
Cindy Dunn has served in the position of Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources since the beginning of the Wolf Administration in 2015. Russel Redding has served in the position of Secretary of the Department of Agriculture since the beginning of the Wolf Administration in 2015 and from 2009-2011 under Governor Rendell.  

DEP Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management

New Bureau website!

DEP’s Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management (BWRNSM) has deployed a “new” Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management website.
The new website streamlines and updates existing content and creates new content that will assist our partners as they work to improve water quality. The Bureau worked with the marketing consultant Water Words that Work to ensure the content and organizational structure was user-friendly.
Some notable changes:
  • The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Division and Nonpoint Source Management Division landing pages describe our mission, what we do and who we are to aid in better public transparency of our programs.
  • The Conservation District Support Section webpage includes an updated map and list of Conservation District Field Representative (CDFR) contacts as well as a new tab focused on the Chesapeake Bay Technical Assistance and Engineering Program (with the map of engineering coverage).
  • The Watershed Support Section webpage includes the updated map of Conservation District Watershed Specialist project advisors and additional web resources for Watershed Specialists.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Office pages have been updated and transitioned to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Division page.
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2022 Programmatic Progress submitted to EPA

The Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management Chesapeake Bay Restoration Division submitted its annual 2022 Phase 3 WIP Milestone Planning and Progress Update to EPA for evaluation on January 13, 2023. A summary overview of the 2022 milestone successes and challenges will be provided in an upcoming WIP newsletter.

BWRNSM completed and closed federal CBIG2 award from EPA

BWRNSM completed its work under its EPA Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant 2 (CBIG2) federal assistance agreement that spanned the period of July 1, 2014 to December 31, 2021. BWRNSM received a grant closeout notice from EPA on November 30, 2022. During the grant’s period of performance, EPA awarded more than $15 million in federal funding to complete objectives in the workplan, and Pennsylvania contributed more than $15 million in state match from DEP’s Bay Abatement Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund. Work completed under this grant supported initiatives to address nutrient and sediment reduction-related activities, technical assistance, and science-based decision making through monitoring and research in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Through the CBIG2 workplan, DEP provided funding to:
  • County Conservation Districts to support design and engineering assistance to farmers and other landowners as well as funding to implement agricultural BMPs;
  • Local governments for implementation of urban stormwater BMPs;
  • Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts for a Chesapeake Bay Education Office;
  • Develop non-AMD TMDLs and a TMDL alternative plan within the Chesapeake Bay watershed; and
  • United States Geological Survey for a smallmouth bass thiamine study.

Programs and Projects by Local, State and Federal Partners

DEP awards $19 million in Growing Greener Plus funds

On January 12, DEP announced $19 million in Growing Greener Plus funds to support 82 local watershed restoration, abandoned mine reclamation and conventional oil and gas well plugging projects. Growing Greener is the largest single investment of state funds in Pennsylvania's history to address critical environmental concerns. Entities eligible for Growing Greener grants include watershed groups, local or county government, municipal authorities, county planning commissions, county conservation districts, council of governments, educational institutions and non-profit organizations. Grantees have up to three years to implement their projects.
The projects were listed by DEP Regional Office:
  • Northwest Region: 9 Projects, $1,462,883 - Armstrong, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Lawrence, Venango counties
  • Northcentral Region: 11 Projects, $3,545,001 - Centre, Clearfield, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Tioga, Tioga & Potter, Union, Clinton, Centre counties
  • Northeast Region: 7 Projects, $919,035 - Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Schuylkill, Wayne counties
  • Southwest Region: 22 Projects, $3,789,841 - Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria & Statewide, Clarion, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington, Westmoreland
  • Southcentral Region: 23 Projects, $7,833,271 - Berks, Blair, Centre, Cumberland, Fulton, Snyder, Dauphin, Cumberland, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Lebanon, York counties
  • Southeast Region: 10 Projects, $2,119,504 - Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia counties

Pennsylvania in the Balance 2022 conference outcomes summary released

On December 12-14, 2022, over 100 leaders in agriculture and conservation gathered to collaboratively explore the development of a policy and resource support network to ensure Pennsylvania can fully take advantage of these resources. Convened by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, PA in the Balance 2022 marked the latest in a series of these conferences aimed at providing a forum where motivated leaders in agriculture and the environment work collaboratively to identify new, innovative solutions that can help ensure thriving, productive agriculture while meeting water quality goals for Pennsylvania’s local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. After three highly productive days, clear themes and early recommendations emerged that can significantly advance Pennsylvania agriculture as the solution to major environmental challenges and ensure it remains a thriving and growing sector of Pennsylvania’s economy, communities, and quality of life. Recommendations include:
  1. Streamline the conservation funding delivery system.
  2. Invest in workforce development and training to position Pennsylvania as the nation’s career and innovation hub for agricultural and natural resources conservation.
  3. Support local partnership and implementation coordination to ensure resources are deployed efficiently and tailored to local needs.
  4. Extend the agricultural and conservation partnership network to businesses and corporations.
  5. Position Pennsylvania partnerships for climate-smart commodities as centers for innovation and market development.

Senate information session on agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay

Senate members of the Pennsylvania delegation of the Chesapeake Bay Commission co-hosted an informational meeting for all senators on January 12 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Keystone Conference Center. The meeting topic, Pennsylvania Agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay, placed special emphasis on the new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP) enacted as part of last year’s Pennsylvania budget. Senator Scott Martin (Senate Appropriations Chair and Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair); Senator Gene Yaw (Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chair and Chesapeake Bay Commission member); Senator Elder Vogel Jr. (Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chair); and Senator Greg Rothman (Senate Game and Fisheries Chair and Ag and Rural Affairs Vice-Chair) were in attendance.
Presenters included Kelly Shenk, EPA Region 3 Agriculture Advisor; Russell Redding, Secretary, PDA; Ramez Ziadeh, Acting Secretary, DEP; Brenda Shambaugh, Executive Director, PA Association of Conservation Districts; and John Cox, Chairman of the Board, Turkey Hill Dairy and Senior Advisor, Lancaster Clean Water Partners.
Discussion topics included:
  • Agriculture’s expectations to meet clean water goals for the Chesapeake Bay
  • Guidelines that are under development for the new ACAP program
  • The needs of local partners who assist farmers with implementation
  • How these efforts will assist in clean water for Pennsylvania

EPA releases 2022 Pennsylvania Animal Agriculture Program Assessment

EPA conducted assessments of animal agriculture programs in six of the Bay jurisdictions (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) in 2015. EPA assessed the jurisdictions’ implementation of programs to ensure reductions in the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment needed to meet the Bay TMDL allocations, including federal and state regulatory programs as well as voluntary, incentive-based programs to meet the commitments in their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs).
EPA updated the 2015 assessment with the 2022 Pennsylvania Animal Agriculture Program Assessment, where EPA notes that Pennsylvania has made progress since the 2015 assessment in its efforts to reduce nutrient and sediment loads in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Pennsylvania has collectively demonstrated progress over the course of the last several years; while there are still areas to improve upon, Pennsylvania has addressed many of the recommendations from EPA’s 2015 assessment related to compliance assessments, funding, and data management. A special thank you to Franklin, Lancaster, Lycoming and Snyder County Conservation Districts; Northcentral and Southcentral DEP Regional Waterways and Wetlands Programs; the State Conservation Commission; and the PA Department of Agriculture for providing information and participating in interviews with EPA in spring 2022.
The scale and breadth of working agricultural lands in Pennsylvania yields many opportunities for conservation. There are still challenges that we face, such as the need for workforce development, training and technical assistance, and increased dedicated funding for people and projects – and we will continue to work together to overcome those challenges moving into the new year and beyond.

DEP updates 2022 State Water Plan Digital Water Atlas

As part of the 2022 update of the State Water Plan, the Digital Water Atlas updates the 2009 Pennsylvania Water Atlas. In 2009, DEP updated its state water plan as required by Pennsylvania Water Resources Planning Act (Act 220 of 2002). The 2009 update included the Pennsylvania Water Atlas, which contains facts and information that are still relevant today. As part of the 2022 update of the State Water Plan, the interactive 2022 Digital Water Atlas uses current technology to update maps and information from the 2009 Atlas.
The intent of this Atlas, like the previous one, is to lay out the landscape of Pennsylvania's water and land resources and how they are managed. It is also intended to help people understand where our water comes from and how it is affected by natural events and human activity, which is the first important step towards water planning. 

    PENNVEST approves 17 clean water projects within the Chesapeake Bay watershed

    During its January 12, 2023, meeting, the PENNVEST Board of Directors approved funding for eight drinking water, seven sewer, and two stormwater projects within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, totaling $159,436,800 in low interest loans and $16,873,917 in grants.

    DCNR announces 2022 C2P2 Community and Watershed Forestry Fall Grants

    On January 12, 2023, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced an investment of $11.8 million for streamside forest buffers, converting lawns to meadows and trees, and planting trees in urban communities to help improve water quality and to make the commonwealth more resilient to climate change. The grants are made possible through more than $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money appropriated to the Keystone Tree Fund in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 budget, and other federal and state funds and are administered by the DCNR Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2).
    Twenty grants are being awarded planting approximately 700 acres of streamside trees statewide, with several partners focusing on planting in the Susquehanna River watershed; 12 grants supporting the TreeVitalize program and similar community tree planting efforts; and projects to change lawns to meadows and trees for pollinators and water quality included in seven grants. These grants include major investments in projects within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and throughout PA. Visit the DCNR website for a complete list of grants by county. DCNR has awarded more than $430 million in grants to more than 2,300 projects across the commonwealth.

    2022 Local Government Forum Report: Integrating Resilience into Local Planning

    The Chesapeake Bay Local Government Advisory Committee and an expert group of participants finalized the 2022 Local Government Forum Report Integrating Resilience into Local Planning that identified five recommendations to the Chesapeake Executive Council as follows:
    • Communications and Outreach--Develop clear, localized language to provide local governments with public education and outreach resources to build support and buy-in for resilience efforts.
    • Guidance--Provide local governments guidance on integrating resilience into existing processes, based on state and federal mandates and requirements such as hazard mitigation, stormwater, watershed, and comprehensive land use plans.
    • Funding--Expand funding opportunities to increase flexibility and eligibility criteria for funding sources while demystifying and streamlining the funding application process.
    • Partnership and Buy-In--Host an annual resilience conference for local and state elected officials, local government staff, academia, and subject matter experts within the non-profit and private sectors to increase awareness regarding the need for resilience throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, promote buy-in and support, and highlight funding opportunities.
    • Capacity Building--Identify a mechanism to build additional capacity in each state to provide technical assistance and support local governments with resilience planning and grant writing with consideration for additional dedicated full-time staff.

    Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission leadership change

    State Conservation Commission (SCC) Executive Secretary Karl Brown retired in December 2022, after almost three decades of leading the SCC, a period that saw the agency take on increased responsibilities for supporting water quality on farms. Brown has been the SCC’s executive secretary since 1995 and has led the rollout of marquee programs such as the REAP tax credit and a new state cost-share program for farmers. One of Brown’s last major projects was the rollout of the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program (ACAP), a $154 million cost-share program approved as part of the 2023 state budget. SCC staff have been working hard since then to write guidelines, identify qualifying best management practices and establish the program’s structure.
    Karl Brown’s successor is Doug Wolfgang, longtime director of PDA’s Bureau of Farmland Preservation. Wolfgang grew up on a farm in Schuylkill County and earned his bachelor’s degree in Geo-Environmental Studies from Shippensburg University. Like his predecessor, Wolfgang worked for the Lebanon County Conservation District as an agriculture technician and farmland preservation program administrator before he moved to PDA, where he worked in the Bureau of Farmland Preservation, administering the Farmland Preservation and Clean and Green programs and the Agricultural Land Condemnation Approval Board. In 2007, Doug became the Director of the Bureau of Farmland Preservation. This program is a nationally recognized easement purchase program, with over 6,100 farms and over 615,000 acres preserved. Wolfgang coordinated statewide farmland preservation efforts among the 58 participating counties and helped to advance policies that promote land conservation at the state and national levels.

      Chesapeake Stormwater Network announces the opening of the 2023 Best Urban BMP in the Bay Award (BUBBAs)

      The Best Urban BMP in the Bay Award contest (BUBBAs) recognizes the best urban stormwater practices and programs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The goal of the BUBBAs is to:
      Recognize innovators in the field who are using new and innovative techniques for facing the challenges of stormwater management;
      Provide an avenue for disseminating these techniques to other communities who could benefit from the lessons learned and innovative approaches;
      Engage CSN’s 11,000-member network of stormwater professionals throughout the Bay watershed to choose our grand prize winner and promote interactivity among members.
      Now in its sixth year, the BUBBAs competition is as fierce as ever. Submissions will be accepted through February 24, 2023. This year will again feature seven project/program categories. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and how to apply, please download this year’s contest packet, then use the easy online form to submit your entry.

      Chesapeake Conservancy artificial intelligence deep learning model for mapping wetlands yields 94% accuracy 

      Chesapeake Conservancy’s data science team developed an artificial intelligence deep learning model for mapping wetlands, which resulted in 94% accuracy. Supported by EPRI, an independent, non-profit energy research and development institute; Lincoln Electric System; and the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Inc., this method for wetland mapping could deliver important outcomes for protecting and conserving wetlands. The results are published in the peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment.
      The new model will help infrastructure planners avoid wetlands in the planning process, resulting in cost savings and wetlands conservation. Potential beneficial situations include ongoing efforts to expand and develop renewable energy, which requires expanding electric power infrastructure.

      Funding Available Now

      DCNR announces opening of 2023 C2P2 Grant application round

      The DCNR Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2) 2023 grant round opened on January 17 and will close in early April. DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation (BRC) assists local governments and recreation and conservation organizations with funding for projects related to parks, recreation, and conservation. Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants can fund:
      • Planning, acquisition, and development of public parks
      • Recreation areas
      • Motorized and non-motorized trails
      • River conservation and access
      • Conservation of open space
      • Community and Watershed Forestry (riparian forest buffers, TreeVitalize, and lawn conversion grants)
      • Grants also support regional and statewide partnerships that build capacity to better develop and manage resources.
      C2P2 grants are available for projects across the commonwealth, including within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
      Municipalities, 501(c)3 organizations, and educational institutions can apply for a DCNR grant opportunity through the electronic grants system. Grant Project informational webinars are available to view on the Community Conservation Partnerships Program Grants website.

      Funding available for CREP Mini-grants!

      PACD is now accepting mini-grant applications for up to $3,000 to implement educational and outreach activities that support and extend the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) work. Projects should focus on CREP enrollment, re-enrollment and/or CREP maintenance. Applications are due February 24, 2023. Questions should be directed to Holly Miller at hmiller@pacd.org. Project examples include:
      • Walkabouts/field days
      • Farmer and landowner workshops
      • Riparian buffer workshops
      • Workshop series with several topics
      • Developing educational materials like brochures, flyers, fact sheets or even billboards
      • Hire interns to provide CREP outreach

      Getting Credit for Our Work

      HRG and Chesapeake Conservancy remote sensing BMP verification progress update

      On January 5, Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Division staff met with Countywide Action Plan (CAP) Coordinators from Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) and the Chesapeake Conservancy for a progress update on their remote sensing BMP verification efforts. In 2022, this effort produced an extensive BMP catalog, identified by remote sensing and field-verified by county conservation district staff. Moving forward into 2023, HRG and the Chesapeake Conservancy hope to continue to expand these efforts by creating an algorithm that will allow these methods to be expanded to a larger geographic area.
      HRG and Chesapeake Conservancy are also in the early stages of planning a meeting to gather all county partners, universities and nonprofits involved in remote sensing verification work in the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay watershed. This meeting would serve to connect organizations and individuals all engaged in similar work to collaborate and share ideas, expand on work being done, and ensure that efforts are not being duplicated. DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Division has offered to connect HRG to other entities that they are aware of that are working on remote sensing.

      CBF remote sensing methodology for cover crops and conservation tillage

      On December 16, Brian Gish of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) presented new methodology using remote sensing to identify the presence of cover crops and conservation tillage in agricultural lands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This remote sensing relies on satellite imagery and GIS analysis and can be done for small watersheds as well as large watersheds. This technique may assist with reporting more accurate cover crop and conservation tillage acres throughout Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Currently, cover crop and conservation tillage data collection is challenging and time consuming; remote sensing could provide a highly efficient solution to this data collection and reporting need. 

      Counties in Action

      Countywide Action Plan Progress Updates

      All 34 counties submitted their CAP Annual Progress Reports or Two-Year Milestone Reports by December 1, 2022 to DEP’s Watershed Accountability and Administration Section in the Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management. This year, the Tier 2 counties prepared their Two-Year Milestones, which gave the counties the opportunity to adjust and revise their CAPs, taking advantage of the progress, knowledge and experience they have gained over the past two years of CAP implementation. They were also able to submit updated Programmatic Recommendations for state and federal agency partners to consider and provide feedback in order to support county efforts. The Pilot and Tier 3 & 4 counties provided their CAP Annual Progress Reports, which gave counties the opportunity to highlight their accomplishments over the past 12 months, and a chance to look forward while planning for the upcoming reporting year. The information provided by the counties in these reports is recorded on the Bureau’s website for all interested stakeholders, and used by agency staff and action leaders to help inform future decision making.

      Adams County looking forward to 2023 implementation

      With the funds received from the CAP Implementation Grant, as well as other grants from NFWF and South Mountain Partnership, Adams County is gearing up for a busy year of implementation. Adams County kicked off 2023 with permit writing for numerous stream restoration projects that will be accomplished this summer. This year’s CAP projects will include five stream restoration projects, two raingardens, a waste storage facility, and over 13,500 feet of streambank fencing. The South Mountain Partnership grant, in coordination with Adams County Trout Unlimited, will involve stream restoration, tree plantings and the construction of nature education trails and a teaching station. Finally, with a NFWF grant shared with Franklin and Cumberland counties, Capital RC&D, and extra funding in Adams County’s Chesapeake Bay Technician contract, BMP verification will receive much-needed funding over the next two years. 2023 will be an exciting year for Adams County!

      11th annual Cumberland County corn planter clinic

      On December 14, the 11th Annual Corn Planter Clinic was held at the Shippensburg Auction Center. The clinic is the largest agricultural education event in Cumberland County. Staff from the Cumberland County Conservation District worked with Cumberland Planter in organizing this event. The event is beneficial for the farming community to come together to share ideas and gather valuable information from knowledgeable speakers. Chris Creek from Precision Ag spoke about how important precision planting is due to the increasing cost of fertilizer. John Tooker from Penn State Extension talked about slug management in cover cropping and Steve Ernst from Martin’s Elevator spoke about cover cropping and equipment. Eric Rosenbaum from the PA 4R Alliance described the nitrogen usage when cover cropping. Bill Chain from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation brought his cover cropping drone, currently being used for research purposes, and explained how the drone will be beneficial for the future of farming. He also spoke about the importance of cover cropping and how it benefits the Chesapeake Bay. Program updates were given by both the Cumberland and Franklin County Conservation Districts, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and the Cumberland County Planning/Farmland Preservation. There was an estimated total of 160 people in attendance.
      Cumberland County residents attend an agricultural educational event.

      York County farms receives 2022 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award

      Flinchbaugh’s Orchard & Farm of York County is the recipient of the 2022 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award. Given in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers’, ranchers’ and forestland owners’ dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat resources. The $10,000 award and was announced January 9 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. Cover crops, grass buffers, no-till practices, and precision agriculture technology are central to how their crop fields and orchards are managed. Siblings Mike and Andrew Flinchbaugh and Julie Keene are continuing the stewardship practices begun by their recently retired parents, Ritchie and Sonia.
      2022 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award - Flinchbaugh's Orchard & Farm
      Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101