May 2021

Hello partners for water quality!

We’re making exciting progress together on our goal to improve water quality in Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed by reducing nutrient and sediment pollution. Read on for updates on many fronts. Please consider how you might help support this work, and share this newsletter (or the subscribe page) with your networks to help spread the word.
For details on the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan, visit the Phase 3 WIP website. For an overview, tips, and success stories, visit Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities.
— DEP Chesapeake Bay Office

State Action Leaders and Partners

1,500 native trees planted to help the Juniata River

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director Tim Schaeffer joined partners in April to plant a streamside forest buffer at Walker Access on the Juniata River in Mifflintown.
Partners included the Juniata County Conservation District, Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and Juniata Watershed Alliance. Over several days the team planted about 1,500 native trees and shrubs to form 7.5 acres of buffer at this and two other FBC access areas on the Juniata. Swamp white oak, river birch, American sycamore, silky dogwood, and winterberry will help improve the health of the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Enhanced guidance on stream restoration crediting available to MS4 municipalities

DEP has enhanced its guidance for MS4 municipalities on calculating credit for stream restoration projects. Easy-to-use checklists clarify the minimum criteria a stream restoration project must meet to earn MS4 credit and specify the documentation DEP expects when stream restoration projects are submitted for crediting review. Log in to the Clean Water Academy website to see this information in Stream Restoration for MS4 Pollutant Load Reduction Credit

39 dairy farmers reducing pollution through Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership

The national ice cream brand Turkey Hill has helped 39 of its Pennsylvania dairy suppliers significantly reduce pollution through the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership.
Animal waste, overfertilizing, and poor irrigation practices can cause excess nitrogen to run off into local waterways, causing algal blooms downstream that lead to dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay that impact aquatic life. Plowing, cows wandering into waterways and vegetation removal all lead to stream bank erosion, which adds sediment pollution.
All of this is being reduced through best management practice implementation, which is happening at breakneck speed by the partnership. Since it launched in 2017, the partnership has now worked with 39 farms to plant 645 trees that filter runoff; create or update 29 conservation, nutrient and manure plans; and install 66 agricultural BMPs, such as cover crops, stream fencing, and improved manure storage facilities.
A joint effort between Turkey Hill, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, the partnership fundraises and acquires grants, using them to install BMPs on the farms of Turkey Hill producers, reducing the amount of nutrients and sediment flowing into local streams and the bay.
For dairy producers who choose to participate, the partnership funds 75 percent of the costs of installing conservation and nutrient management plans and 100 percent of the costs to develop plans. The partnership has raised $2 million, with a total of $3 million leveraged on farm improvements.
Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership: The Challenge

Girl Scouts: Smart cookies about improving water quality

Cumberland Valley High School senior Lauren Braught, who is a Girl Scout and also the Pennsylvania student leader at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, guided fellow Girl Scouts in planting 100 trees at Camp Small Valley in Dauphin County on April 24.
The event kicked off Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania’s portion of the Girl Scouts USA Tree Promise—a nationwide five-year initiative for Girl Scouts to plant five million trees. A new tree-focused fun patch was also unveiled and available for all Girl Scouts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. GSHPA and the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership are collaborating on Tree Promise efforts in Pennsylvania, as well as on the new “Clean Water Grows on Trees” fun patch.
The day also marked the third anniversary of the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, coordinated by CBF. The partnership provided the trees and supplies for the planting. Girl Scouts planted 50 more trees at another event on May 16 in Lancaster County.  

Funding Sources

$22.5 million available from Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Grants

DEP has approximately $22.5 million available for projects by schools, local governments, and nonprofit organizations to improve water quality in their communities or watersheds or statewide. These grant programs support projects to reduce water pollution that comes not from one specific discharge point, such as a pipe, but from more than one source. This includes:
  • nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution from agricultural and urban activities, and
  • iron, aluminum, and acidity pollution from energy resource extraction and acid mine drainage.
Approximately $18 million is available in 2021 Growing Greener Plus grants for projects that are local, watershed, or statewide in scale. Projects may be small or large, for example, a single streambank fencing project on a farm or a large-scale floodplain restoration. Find application information at Growing Greener Plus.
Approximately $4.5 million is available in Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Grants for projects specified in watershed implementation plans for 37 impaired watersheds around the state. The program also supports development of new plans for other impaired watersheds. Find application information at Section 319 Grants.
Application deadline: June 25, 2021, for both programs

Several watershed projects funded by 2021 Environmental Education Grants

Fifty-one projects in Pennsylvania were recently awarded almost $460,000 in 2021 Environment Education Grants from DEP. Addressing water quality, environmental justice, and climate change, the projects will be led by schools, conservation districts, and environmental and community organizations. Grants went to several projects in counties working on Phase 3 WIP Countywide Action Plans:
  • Cambria County Conservation District was funded for urban rain barrel workshops;
  • Northumberland County Conservation District received funding for a community project to plant native trees/shrubs to mitigate the impacts of acid mine drainage; and
  • York County Conservation District was funded for multimedia presentations, brochures, and infographics highlighting stream restoration projects and riparian buffer plantings.

Over 850 agriculture plans in watershed supported in final year of Agriculture Plan Reimbursement Program (APRP)

Farmers registered 860 agricultural plans for $643,489 in reimbursements through the DEP Agriculture Plan Reimbursement Program as of the April 1 deadline for the final year of this four-year program. The plans cover 106,254 acres in in Pennsylvania’s share of the watershed. Contractors TeamAg and Larson Design are currently reviewing and approving reimbursement packages. 
APRP helps farmers with the cost of getting Ag Erosion and Sediment, Conservation, Nutrient Management, and Manure Management Plans developed. Over the previous three years, this successful program reimbursed farmers over $1.8 million to support development of 2,397 plans covering 418,450 acres. 

Funding available for projects to protect forest and freshwater habitat for native species

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Central Appalachia Habitat Stewardship Program has approximately $2 million in grant funding available for projects to restore and sustain healthy forests, rivers, and streams that provide habitat for diverse native bird and aquatic populations.
The goal is to improve the quality and connectivity of forest and freshwater habitat as reflected by a suite of species that are indicators of habitat condition. The program aims to:
Improve the management of public and private forestlands to create mosaics of mixed-aged forests that support a diversity of bird and wildlife species, especially targeting golden-winged warbler, wood thrush, and cerulean warbler; and
Bolster populations of eastern brook trout, eastern hellbender, and native freshwater mussels by removing barriers to fish passage, restoring riparian and in-stream habitat, and improving water quality and hydrology.
Application deadline: July 15, 2021

Grants available to improve public access to water trails

The Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership is offering Water Trail Mini Grants of up to $5,000 to projects that improve access to designated water trails. The Pennsylvania Environmental Council partners with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, DCNR, and National Park Service to direct the Pennsylvania Water Trails Program, which oversees 28 designated trails across the state. For more information, contact Lizzie Hessek at lhessek@pecpa.org or (512) 934-4470.
Application deadline: July 2, 2021

Climate Action in Focus

The Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership used computer models to predict how climate change will influence nutrient pollution in 2025. Last year, the partnership approved additional climate change-related load allocations for every state, as well as the District of Columbia, in the watershed. Pennsylvania needs to reduce an additional 1.8 million pounds of nitrogen and .09 million pounds of phosphorus due to climate change through 2025. 

2021 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment identifies catastrophic and critical risk levels 

If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t lowered, Pennsylvania will be 5.9° F hotter and have significantly more heatwaves and heavy rainfall events by midcentury, according to the 2021 Climate Impacts Assessment, announced in May by the Wolf administration.
The report uses a risk rating approach, calculating the likelihood and severity of projected impacts to in various areas of life in Pennsylvania. Public health and ecosystems are projected to be at catastrophic risk from heatwaves and rising statewide average temperature, respectively. Environmental Justice communities carry an additional level of critical risk from heatwaves. Farms and infrastructure are at critical risk from flooding impacts.
By specifying where climate change impacts are likely to be greatest, the report enables government, business, and community leaders to prioritize adaptation actions. Review the full Climate Impacts Assessment to inform your community or sector decision making. 

DEP Chesapeake Bay Office

Director Jill Whitcomb honored with Governor’s Award 

Governor Tom Wolf has awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence to two DEP employees, one being Chesapeake Bay Office Director Jill Whitcomb. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Jill!
Jill has been instrumental to implementing the Phase 3 WIP to improve water quality in Pennsylvania streams and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. This effort has involved forging a collaborative effort among state agencies, county conservation districts, municipal governments, farmers, and many others. These community-based efforts are showing results, with widespread cooperation to identify ways to cut down pollution through BMPs. 

Pilot and Tier 2 counties: Finding funding to get projects on the ground

The CBO continues to meet individually with the eight pilot and Tier 2 counties to coordinate efforts and support actions to accelerate the implementation of Countywide Action Plans. These informal meetings cover CAP updates, concerns and successes, and creative solutions to challenges. With funding a big need, the CBO hosted a webinar for the county CAP coordinators and lead partners on funding sources that may support CAP projects, including the recently announced Growing Greener and Section 319 grant funding. 

Tier 3-4 Counties: Identifying local priorities and partners for Countywide Action Plans

Tier 3 and 4 counties are in the thick of developing their CAPs and engaging stakeholders. More than half have held their first stakeholder meeting, with the rest following by the end of May. The counties are beginning to identify their priorities and the BMPs that will support them while also reducing nutrient pollution in their local waters.
The county CAP coordinators and lead partners are having biweekly meetings with the CBO. These meetings serve as trainings for the coordinators, provide opportunities for regular updates from the CBO, and a chance for the coordinators to ask questions and network with other coordinators.

Reporting and Data

The CBO wrote a letter of support for a proposal by the Wetland Workgroup of the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program for a workshop to explore a more holistic focus on how appropriate restorative practices at the local scale would generate naturally sustainable water quality benefits, as well as restore and protect habitat. 
It’s essential for Chesapeake Bay Program partners to understand the current impacts of BMP crediting on habitat-based outcomes, discuss the potential for improvements or alternatives, and provide recommendations to better value and account for habitat-based outcomes. “Wetlands: Evaluating a Systems Approach to BMP Crediting” was accepted to be a Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee workshop in 2022.   

County Progress Highlights

Pilot and Tier 2

Franklin County: Selling tree seedlings and awarding grants

Clean Water for Franklin County is excited to report that its lead entity, Franklin County Conservation District, finished their tree sale with a successful drive-through pickup. FCCD sold 3,535 seedlings, including 85 fruit trees and 3,450 hardwoods and evergreens, making headway on their CAP tree planting priority initiative. FCCD is also in the process of awarding Conservation Excellence Grants to, and designing plans for, BMPs that local landowners will begin implementing this summer. More details on these projects, including total BMP and estimated nutrient reductions will be provided once finalized. In addition, we welcomed new members from county leadership to the CWFC committee. 

Lancaster County: Significant investment in agricultural BMPs comes to the county

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service announced in April that it selected a proposal by the Lancaster Clean Water Partners Regional Conservation Partnership Program to receive $7.4 million to implement BMPs on agricultural lands, resulting in restored and healthy streams.
This is significant for the county not only in the scale of BMP implementation it supports, but also because the highly collaborative proposal from nine local groups encourages farmers to work with neighbors to make improvements on their farm that also restore and renew the stream they share. Submitted by the RCPP in coordination with the Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County, the proposal outlines a rapid stream de-listing strategy that supports landowners working to restore 350 miles of streams currently on impaired lists.
In other funding news, Lancaster Clean Water Partners is accepting applications from local municipalities and nonprofits for 2021 Clean Water Fund Grants for stream restoration, farm conservation, and stormwater management projects. Please help spread the word.

York County: Developing a local BMP guide and getting projects underway 

County CAP action teams have been busy. The Data Management Action Team has nearly completed York’s BMP Guide, which will accompany its Unreported BMP Template when the county is searching for unreported, nonagricultural projects to be entered into the FieldDoc system.
The Project Implementation Action Team has begun developing a “CAP Project Tracker” to track projects being implemented across every agency in York County. The goal is to have a working spreadsheet with projects in the queue.
The York County Coalition for Clean Waters merger with Watershed Alliance of York continues, with LUMI Marketing and Creative working to rebrand the initiative. The county CAP team is adding two new committees—Agriculture and Buffers—through the merger as well.
Here’s a roundup of our current CAP projects:
  1. Penn Township Center Street Stream Restoration: Completed
  2. Fairview Township Roof Park Raingarden: Nearly completed
  3. York County Storm Water Consortium Barshinger Creek & Pine Run Stream Restoration: Under construction
  4. Horn Farm Center Riparian Buffer: Planting underway
  5. Jackson Township Little Creek Phase 2 Stream Restoration: Construction begins May/June
  6. Dover Township Bioretention/Buffer Planting: Construction/planting begins May/June  

Tier 3-4

Tioga County: Sugar maples for healthy waters now and sap for future generations of syrup producers

Farmer and maple syrup producer Corrie Bacon has a small river running through his property that connects to the Cowanesque River, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. Because of this, Bacon qualified to receive 850 sugar maple trees from the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership.
Bacon sells a variety of maple products, including syrups, maple sugar, maple cream, and seasoning. It takes 40 years for sugar maples to start producing sap for syrup, and at the age of 54, Bacon doesn’t plan on reaping any financial benefits from his new trees. Instead, he sees the trees as an opportunity to give back to the Pennsylvania region he’s benefited from.
Sugar maples can function as stream bank buffers that filter runoff before it enters waterways, and also reduce air pollution by storing carbon dioxide. Tree roots and leaves also help improve soil health. And when trees are planted alongside streams, they help to cool the water and make conditions more suitable for marine life.
Bacon heard of the tree planting program through the Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Project, a grassroots network of veterans, military members and spouses who farm and operate agribusinesses. The project is working to connect farmers in their network to the 10 Million Trees Partnership, making it easy for them to implement the best management practice on their property.

Bradford, Potter, and Tioga Counties: Countywide Action Plan website launched

Bradford, Potter, and Tioga counties have launched a new website with information on CAP development and other features, including a survey for landowners in the counties. Please share and help us gather feedback that will guide what programs, projects, and initiatives will go into each county's CAP. 
— John Cox, Senior Advisor, Lancaster Clean Water Partners, on receiving $7.4 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for a project to enlist farmers to install BMPs that will help get 350 miles of streams off Section 303(d) impaired streams lists. Photo: Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101
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