May/June 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

DEP Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management (BWRNSM)

James Seif, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, speaks during the 2000 Chesapeake Executive Council Meeting in Friendship, Md., on June 28, 2000. The council signed a new agreement, called Chesapeake 2000, at the meeting. (Chesapeake Bay Program)

DEP BWRNSM Director Jill Whitcomb 40th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement interview with Former DEP Secretary Jim Seif

With the arrival of the 40th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, BWRNSM’s Director Jill Whitcomb interviewed Former DEP Secretary Jim Seif on the past, present and future of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration efforts.
Highlighted within the interview are key moments in Pennsylvania’s environmental protection and Chesapeake Bay history, like the Environmental Rights Amendment, Environmental Stewardship Fund and Growing Greener, Nutrient Management Act, and stormwater management policies and regulations. Whitcomb and Seif also discuss the value that county conservation districts bring to our collective watershed restoration efforts.

BWRNSM hosted grant funding coordination webinars

On May 18, BWRNSM hosted two interactive webinars with State Conservation Commission (SCC) and Countywide Action Plan (CAP) local partners to discuss coordinating federal grant funding sources for more effective and efficient delivery to counties. The agencies provided overviews of the available and potential future funding directed to the Commonwealth and utilized county partner feedback from previous meetings to kick off the idea-sharing portion of the webinars. County partners again issued praise for “block grant” style funding programs and reiterated the need for more technical assistance and engineering. Those on the call were asked to participate in a series of short polls requesting input on how county partners would like to see the agencies deliver the funding and needed technical assistance. Ideas included counties receiving funds directly for in-house technical assistance work or to fund county-level “requests for proposals” (RFP). Others suggested that BWRNSM issue an RFP for contracted technical assistance at the agency level.

BWRNSM Watershed Accountability and Administration Section hosted 2023 CAP Two-Year Milestone and Annual Progress Reporting Webinar Wednesday

On June 7, Watershed Accountability and Administration Section staff hosted a Webinar Wednesday for more than 40 county partners that focused on the 2023 Phase 3 WIP Countywide Action Plan (CAP) Two-Year Milestone and Annual Progress Reporting, and the new six-month quality assurance data reporting. This is the first year that the Tier 3 and 4 counties will be going through the two-year milestone update. A key area of the presentation focused on the timeline that the counties will need to follow. Starting this reporting round, CAP partners can now submit new/updated state programmatic recommendations for agency partners each reporting round.
The second part of the webinar focused on the six-month quality assurance data reporting. BWRNSM staff will be reviewing 10% of projects submitted by county partners into the PracticeKeeper database with the CAP funding code to verify that time-stamped photos are being submitted with the projects, as is required by the grant. The goal of conducting quality assurance every six months is to spread out the final reporting to reduce the workload at the end of the grant, and to lessen the potential need to hold 15% of the grant funds from the counties until the final reporting is completed. Questions from the counties were focused on the details of the six-month quality assurance data reporting.

Funding Available Now

USDA-NRCS accepting Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) applications

USDA-NRCS’s RCPP is accepting applications through August 18, 2023. RCPP is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land.
  • Availability of $500 million in funding to advance partner-division solutions to conservation on agricultural land.
  • The 2023 RCPP priorities are climate-smart agriculture, urban agriculture and projects and, as a Justice40 covered program, projects that serve underserved farmers and ranchers.
  • Applications for RCPP climate-related projects will receive priority consideration for Inflation Reduction Act funding.
RCPP projects fall under two different categories, RCPP Classic and RCPP Grants:
  • RCPP Classic: projects are implemented using NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners and communities, in collaboration with project partners.
  • RCPP Grants: the lead partner must work directly with agricultural producers to support the development of new conservation structures and approaches.

DEP opens next round of federally-funded Abandoned Mine Reclamation grant

DEP is opening a second application period for abandoned mine reclamation and mine drainage treatment starting July 3, 2023. Applications will close on August 25, 2023. The third round of applications will open October 2 through December 2, 2023.
  • Funding for these grants is provided by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
  • Eligible applicants include county or municipal governments, county conservation districts, councils of government, municipal authorities, and nonprofit organizations.
  • The application document and attachments must be completed and uploaded into the Commonwealth’s eGrants system by the application deadline for each round.

PACD is accepting applications for the 2023 CREP Mini-Grant Program

The Pennsylvania Association of Conservation District (PACD) is offering mini-grants for conservation districts for up to $3,000 to implement educational and outreach activities that support and extend the work of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

South Mountain Partnership flex grant program now accepting applications

The Friends of South Mountain Partnership and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has Flex Grant funding available to support community initiatives that further the goals of the South Mountain Partnership (SMP). Applications are due July 28, 2023. This small-scale funding opportunity is intended to support projects not traditionally eligible for the SMP Mini-Grant program.
In addition to supporting the SMP mission and goals, priority will be given to ideas that promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our region. All projects should have connections to conserving landscape resources, promoting landscape resources and/or connecting people and organizations with common goals around conservation are encouraged to apply. Awards from $600-$1,000 will be considered. All projects must be within Adams, Cumberland, Franklin or York County.

Programs and Projects by Local, State and Federal Partners

Rich Negrin Confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection

The Pennsylvania State senate voted to confirm Governor Josh Shapiro’s nomination of Rich Negrin as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. In this role, Secretary Negrin leads the Department’s mission to protect Pennsylvania's air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment, while increasing permitting efficiency to better serve Pennsylvanians.
"I am deeply honored to serve the Commonwealth as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection,” said Rich Negrin, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. “Governor Shapiro has worked tirelessly to assemble a dynamic, diverse and modern team to lead our Commonwealth and protect our environment. Under the leadership of Governor Shapiro, we are dedicated to ensuring all Pennsylvanians will enjoy their right to drinkable water, breathable air and  the preservation of the many values of our environment."
Secretary Negrin, the first Latino Secretary of DEP, brings more than 35 years of public and private sector leadership to the Department. Negrin’s extensive management track record includes his service as City Manager & Deputy Mayor of Administration & Coordination of the City of Philadelphia. His past roles as a General Counsel, Vice President of Regulatory Policy and Strategy allow him to bring private sector best practices into the public sector, including an increased focus on customer service excellence.  

Russell Redding confirmed to serve as 27th Secretary of the Department of Agriculture

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously confirmed Russell Redding to serve as Pennsylvania’s 27th Secretary of Agriculture. Governor Josh Shapiro nominated Redding, who previously served as Agriculture Secretary under Governors Tom Wolf and Ed Rendell.
Under Redding’s leadership during the Shapiro Administration, the department has accomplished much, including beginning to distribute $154 million from the new Clean Streams Fund’s Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program to build healthier soil and cleaner waterways, and boost farm viability for the future.

Cindy Adams Dunn confirmed to serve as Secretary of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)

Cindy Adams Dunn has been confirmed as the Secretary of the DCNR. Governor Josh Shapiro nominated Dunn for this position after previously serving in this position under Governor Tom Wolf. During her tenure, Ms. Dunn has helped position Pennsylvania as a leader in land conservation, outdoor recreation, green practices, and public land management. Under her leadership, the department advanced water quality initiatives within the Chesapeake Bay and across the commonwealth through investments in conservation, buffer plantings, and restoration, as well as many additional achievements.

21 projects honored with the 2023 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

Twenty-one school, business and community projects were honored with the 2023 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.
Collectively, the award-winning projects engaged hundreds of partners and achieved the following results:
  • Grew and donated nearly 10,000 pounds of organic produce to people in need
  • Preserved over 1,500 acres of land and 32,000 linear feet of waterways
  • Planted approximately 17,000 grasses, 15,000 trees and thousands of shrubs
  • Utilized 14 different DEP grants to accomplish their goals
  • Diverted 3,000,000 gallons of stormwater from local waterways
  • Served 13 Environmental Justice Communities
  • Added over 43 megawatts of solar energy
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 47,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide
  • Avoided the use of thousands of gallons of gasoline
  • Prevented approximately 400,000 pounds of sediment from entering Commonwealth waterways

The Shapiro administration announced $213.1 million investment in water infrastructure projects in 15 counties

The Shapiro Administration announced the investment of $213.1 million for 23 drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and non-point source projects across 15 counties through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). During its April 19, 2023 meeting, the PENNVEST Board of Directors approved funding for three drinking water, six sewer and one nonpoint source project within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, totaling $51,556,936 in low interest loans and $5,559,976 in grants.

The Shapiro Administration awards $1 million to projects that educate and engage citizens in improving the environment in their communities

DEP awarded over $1 million in Environmental Education grants covering 73 projects. These projects focus on education in improving water quality and climate change resiliency in their communities. Of the 73 projects, 55 projects will serve Environmental Justice communities. These newly funded projects range from a farm-to-school program in Erie to a Philadelphia faith organization’s program to train residents in cool roof coating application and solar panel installation.

The Shapiro Administration awards $7.8 million in environmental restoration project grants

DEP announced funding for 16 environmental restoration projects on abandoned mine lands totaling $7.8 million. These projects, which are being funded as a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), primarily focus on the reclamation of abandoned mine land (AML), abatement of acid mine drainage (AMD) through reclamation, and/or treatment of AMD through the construction, operation, and/or maintenance of an AMD treatment facility.
“Restoring these minelands and streams is a critical part to improving Pennsylvania’s environment and growing our economy. Every penny we invest into projects like these results in a better Pennsylvania for all of us,” said DEP Secretary Rich Negrin.

Pennsylvania DCNR develops new newsletter

DCNR launched the new Woods and Meadows News newsletter, which will share:
  • tips for converting lawn to woods and meadow,
  • stories from professionals and individuals who've done lawn conversion,
  • local lawn conversion program opportunities, and
  • DCNR Lawn Conversion Program updates.

EPA launched the Pennsylvania Conservation Assessment Initiative

Beginning April 2023, EPA Region 3 commenced the Pennsylvania Conservation Assessment Initiative to help farmers implement conservation practices to control pollution from manure. Working closely with Pennsylvania organizations such as the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and trusted local leaders like the Lancaster County Conservation District, EPA’s goal is to connect farmers with technical assistance and funding opportunities that will lead to cleaner operations and improved water quality in local streams. Identifying and addressing significant pollutant discharges from these farms will:
  • help farmers keep nutrients and sediment on the farm where they can do the most good
  • improve water quality for downstream users
  • help Pennsylvania meet its water quality goals for local streams and the Chesapeake Bay
To learn more about the initiative, visit the Pennsylvania Conservation Assessment Initiative Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions.

Still time to complete the 2022 Census of Agriculture

Time is running out to respond to the 2022 Census of Agriculture! Thank you to the producers who have already completed the ag census. By federal law, the ag census questionnaire needs to be completed by everyone who received it, including landowners who lease land to producers, those involved in conservation programs, and those who may have received the ag census and did not farm in 2022.
Strong response means strong data that will inform decisions that will help shape the future of American agriculture for the next five years. By not responding, producers risk being unrepresented and underserved in farm programs and funding, crop insurance rates, rural development, disaster assistance and more. Producers are encouraged to return their ag census by mail or fill it out online.

PA American Water awards over $75,000 in local environmental project grants

On May 10, 2023 Pennsylvania American Water announced 14 watershed-related projects across the Commonwealth that will receive financial support through the company’s annual Environmental Grant Program. The recipients will receive a share of grant funds totaling more than $75,000 for their community-based projects that improve, restore or protect watersheds. 2023 grant recipients within the Chesapeake Bay watershed include:
  • Annville Free Library, Lebanon County – Annville Free Library Rain Garden: Funding will support an educational rain garden to help manage runoff and educate the public on the benefits of rain gardens.
  • Borough of Camp Hill, Cumberland County – Clock Courtyard Pollinator Garden: Partnering with local watershed groups, the borough will plant a pollinator garden with native plants and shrubs, educating the public on gardening with native plants and preserving pollinators.
  • Borough of Steelton, Dauphin County – Watershed Education Programming and Clairton Community Garden Improvements: With the grant, the borough plans to construct several rain gardens and community food gardens to reduce stormwater runoff and address limited access to affordable and healthy food.
  • Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County – Pollinator Garden Installation and Turf Grass Conversion: With the grant, the township will convert two community areas from turf grass to native pollinator meadows to promote reduction of non-point source pollution runoff to Yellow Breeches Creek and Cedar Run.

PA Clean Water Procurement Program is open

Pennsylvania’s new Clean Water Procurement Program, funded by the 2022-2023 Clean Streams Fund, is now open. The long term objective of the PENNVEST Clean Water Procurement Program is to improve water quality in the Commonwealth through the purchase of verified nutrient (nitrogen/phosphorus) or sediment reduction resulting from the installation of best management practices that are effective and practical to manage nutrient and sediment to protect surface water and groundwater, with the goal of helping the Commonwealth to achieve it Chesapeake Bay TMDL goals for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. Applications will be accepted through September 1, 2023.
Information, including the guidance, public comment and response, application and a sample form can be accessed on the PENNVEST website.

Register for the Dive Deeper Summit

The Dive Deeper Summit is a multi-state environmental education summit spotlighting innovative teaching about water. This biennial conference, held September 27-28, 2023 is for anyone who teaches youth about water or anyone interested in educational tools and resources for teaching about water. Attendees will network and learn about current and emerging water issues in the mid-Atlantic region and beyond; receive new curriculum ideas; and discover new technology resources to enhance STEM education offerings.
Photo: The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company – Climate Friendly Farms

The Hershey Company is collaborating with Land O’ Lakes and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s program for Sustainable Dairy PA. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect water quality across dairy farms in the Pennsylvania supply chain. This program takes into consideration the potential effects downstream of these farms. Hershey will also be providing $300,000 to support implementation of riparian forest buffers and other efforts to enhance sustainability on their supply farms.
In the past year, 12 acres of riparian buffers, over 3,000 trees and almost a mile of stream coverage and fencing have been implemented. These projects have prevented over 700,000 pounds of sediment, 850 pounds of phosphorus, and almost 4,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering waterways that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. In partnership with two suppliers, a methane reducing feed additive on some of their supplying farms is being piloted to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Counties in Action

Adams County holds tree sale and gets started on CAP projects

The first of five Adams County CAP stream restoration projects began on May 15, 2023. This project is taking place at GVM Inc. in Biglerville and consists of in-stream structures being built alongside the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The other four projects will take place this summer.

Land Conservancy of Adams County preserves acres in Franklin Township

The Land Conservancy of Adams County, partnering with landowners Walter and Jeannette Smith in Franklin Township, permanently preserved nearly 10 acres of rural land south of Arendtsville. “This parcel was important to protect since it fills in a gap between other preserved lands,” said the Land Conservancy of Adams County’s Conservation Director Sarah Kipp. “The property is nearly surrounded by farms on the north, east and south that have been preserved through the county’s Agricultural Land Preservation Program." Additionally, the property has historic importance from the Civil War era.

Centre County Conservation District completes multi-functional riparian buffer

Centre County Conservation District planted four acres of multi-functional riparian forest buffer with fencing on a Spring Mills, Centre County property. The project cost $20,000 and was paid for through PACD's multi-functional buffer sub-grant program.

Juniata County Conservation District holds live stake field day

Juniata County Conservation District joined the Chesapeake Conservancy, DCNR, Milford Township Supervisors and community volunteers to install 680 live stakes on East Licking Creek. The field day provided instruction in identifying, cutting, storing and installing live stakes on streambanks for water quality protection.

Lackawanna County Conservation District planted 3,000 trees in former Glenburn Pond

The Lackawanna County Conservation District partnered with Natural Lands on a project to plant 3,000 trees. These trees were planted over 13 acres, making it the largest of four tree-planting projects the Conservation District has been done this year. The district received $115,000 from the state for this project. This project was extremely important to the community because the land became swampy after the Glenburn Pond dam was damaged and the pond was drained. By planting trees, it will establish a buffer around Ackerley Creek, prevent erosion and ensure good quality water flowing into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area located in Snyder County was inducted into the Old-Growth Forest Network by DCNR

On May 15, 2023 DCNR celebrated the induction of the Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area in Bald Eagle State Forest into the Old-Growth Forest Network. The Old-Growth Forest Network connects people with nature by creating a national network of protected, mature, publicly accessible native forests. The organization intends to preserve at least one forest in every county in the U.S. that can sustain a forest. Preserving forests is essential for healthy ecosystems. Old growth forests capture more carbon from the air and help purify rives and streams.

Lancaster County progress and milestones toward achieving nutrient reduction goals

Lancaster Clean Water Partners have been actively involved in facilitating funding and support to help Lancaster’s local Countywide Action Plan goals in support of Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 WIP goals. Lancaster County Conservation District and Lancaster Clean Water Partners allocated over $2.5 million to high-impact restoration projects.
  • Expanded Technical Assistance with PA DEP Ag Capacity Funding by contracting two service providers, TeamAg and Mowery Environmental
  • Throughout the year, a total of 55 priority parcels were visited and 10 Ag Erosion and Sedimentation plans, eight manure management and nutrient management plans, and four certified nutrient management plans were obtained
  • Growing Greener Watershed Renaissance Initiative funding was awarded for four catchments to fund technical assistance
  • East Donegal Township started a quarterly public works training program aimed at addressing water quality issues and equipping municipal employees
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101