March 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

DEP’s Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management (BWRNSM) developed Pennsylvania Phase 3 WIP 2022 Progress Report Summary

The Pennsylvania Phase 3 WIP 2022 Progress Report Summary provides an overview and highlight of the progress made over the past two years that is provided in full in the Pennsylvania Phase 3 WIP Planning and Progress Report. Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 WIP is unique in its strategic bottom up approach to reducing nutrient pollution in the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Trusting counties to take the lead on clean water efforts has put the power to make change in the people most impacted by that change, local community members and their representatives.
The state’s action leaders take their supporting role in the WIP seriously and have proven it over the last year by taking major steps to ensure counties have all they need to get the job done. Inspiringly, this dedication has not gone unnoticed and the WIP has created a diverse network of people and organizations who are actively working for clean water in the Commonwealth. Due to the momentum the WIP has generated, many organizations have developed dedicated funding streams to offer grants and other financial support to projects in Pennsylvania’s Bay watershed.
Details on the progress made over the last two years are provided in the 2022 milestones report. This includes aggregated data, status of actions, and descriptions of efforts. For efficiency, the plan is broken into five Priority Initiatives:
  1. Communications and Outreach
  2. Funding and Resources
  3. Expanding Capacity for Technical Assistance
  4. Reporting and Tracking
  5. Compliance 
A winter scene in PA

Programs and Projects by Local, State and Federal Partners

Pennsylvania protects 32 Farms, 3,047 acres in 21 counties from future development

The Shapiro Administration announced that Pennsylvania protected 3,047 acres on 32 farms in 21 counties from future residential or commercial development. The investment of more than $10 million in state, county and local dollars preserves prime farmland for the future, helping Pennsylvania farms continue to feed our families and our economy. Of the 21 counties, 12 are located within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Highlights among farms preserved include:
  • The purchase of development rights for Paul and Barbara Weber's beef and crop farm in Upper Mifflin Township, Cumberland County, was funded by federal funds leveraged by previously preserved farms in the county.
  • The Eisenhower and Sweitzer families' York County crop farms support their large beef operation. Preserving these new tracts will build on four prior easement purchases, creating a 1,348-acre contiguous block of preserved farmland. These families have been leaders in preservation in York County and have been instrumental in pushing to strengthen local zoning ordinances to support agriculture.
  • David and Julie Hess follow a detailed conservation plan and comprehensive nutrient management plan on their 239-acre, 100-cow dairy operation in Jackson Township in Tioga County. The practices they are following – including crop rotation, no-till and cover crops – improve farm production and protect natural resources.

2023 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) mini grants awarded

Five county conservation districts were awarded $12,645 for projects for the 2023 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Mini-Grants. Conservation districts will use these grants to work with landowners to prevent pollution in our streams, lakes, and rivers. Projects will take place over the next six months.
The mini grants were awarded to:
  • Blair, $3,000
  • Butler, $2,300
  • Lebanon, $1,345
  • Luzerne, $3,000
  • Sullivan, $3,000
Projects include field days, workshops and one-on-one visits. Whether participants are new to CREP or are already enrolled, they will learn more about the CREP program and how to make it work for them.   

Chesapeake Bay Commission issues 2022 Annual Report

The Chesapeake Bay Commission 2022 Annual Report provides the highlights of the legislative and policy achievements of the Commission in 2022, reflecting the continued legacy of this unique institution as one of our Nation’s greatest examples of truly informed, collaborative and bipartisan policy work by state legislators.

The Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership releases nonpoint source success story

The Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership (Partnership) released a nonpoint source success story on the successful collaboration that lead to the improvement in the Turtle Creek stream corridor. From 2012 through 2020, the Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership (Partnership) worked with 14 landowners along 5.3 miles of Turtle Creek. Together, they implemented best management practices (BMPs) including streambank fencing, streambank stabilization, and riparian buffers. As a result of the Partnership and landowners’ efforts, water quality and aquatic habitat have significantly improved.

Chesapeake Research Consortium (CRC) Monthly Lunchtime Webinar Series

On March 15, 2023 Lara Fowler, Interim Chief Sustainability Officer, Interim Director of the Sustainability Institute, and Professor at Penn State Law, joined Jill Whitcomb, Director of the DEP Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management, for a roundtable session entitled “Implementing Clean Water Solutions for Agriculture in Pennsylvania.”  
The session focused on DEP and its state and local action leaders efforts in building the Countywide Action Planning process in support of PA’s Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). It also focused on the PA in the Balance agriculture conferences and how Pennsylvania used the initial conference held in 2016 to springboard into the development and implementation of the Phase 3 WIP.
Convened by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, PA In Balance 2022 marked the latest in a series of 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.  

USDA NRCS releases Request for Information (RFI) on implementation of National Water Quality Index (NWQI)

NRCS has released a Request for Information for public and stakeholder input on the implementation of the NWQI. The public comment period is open for 30 days, closing on April 7. The NRCS is seeking feedback on how best to target program benefits, quantify impact and improve program delivery and outreach in the future.

Funding Available Now

NRCS-PA seeks to expand conservation assistance to underserved agricultural producers about opportunities for students to pursue careers in agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications for projects that will improve outreach to underserved producers and communities about conservation programs and services and opportunities for students to pursue careers in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering up to $70 million in cooperative agreements with entities for two-year projects that encourage participation in NRCS programs, especially in underserved communities and among urban and small-scale producers.  Applications must be received by April 27, 2023. A pre-recorded webinar is available on the Equity in Conservation Outreach Cooperative Agreements - Fiscal Year 2023 page.

Pennsylvania NRCS is accepting applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) 

Pennsylvania’s NRCS is accepting additional applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The second deadline for CSP Classic applications to be considered for funding in Pennsylvania is April 20, 2023. Through CSP, NRCS helps farmers and forest landowners earn payments for expanding conservation activities while maintaining agricultural production on their land. CSP also encourages adoption of new technologies and management techniques. While applications are accepted throughout the year, interested producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office by the deadline to ensure their applications are considered for 2023 funding.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is accepting applications for Act 13 watershed restoration, mine reclamation, sewage, flood mitigation and recreation grants

The Commonwealth Financing Authority is now accepting applications for Act 13 Program watershed restoration, abandoned mine drainage abatement, baseline water quality data, orphaned or abandoned well plugging, sewage facilities, flood mitigation programs and recreation grants. The deadline for applications is May 31. These grants are funded by the Act 13 drilling impact fees paid by natural gas drillers. More information can be found at the following links:
Applicants are strongly urged to contact their House and Senate member if applying for funding under these programs and ask for their endorsement. For more information and instructions on how to apply, visit the Commonwealth Financing Authority Act 13 Programs webpage.  Questions should be directed to 717-787-6245.

DEP Energy Programs Office is extending the Agriculture Energy Efficiency Rebate Program for farmers and ag producers

DEP’s Energy Programs Office is offering an Agriculture Energy Efficiency Rebate Program for Pennsylvania farmers and ag producers.
Rebates are being offered for the following technology categories:
  • Energy efficient lighting systems: LED lighting (both interior and exterior), including fixtures and controls (DLC or Energy Star rated lighting)
  • Energy efficient ventilation equipment: Ventilation fans including both circulation and exhaust fans, motors and controls
  • Energy efficient dairy and refrigeration equipment: Variable speed vacuum pumps, efficient motors and controls, scroll compressors, well water pre-chillers (plate coolers/heat exchangers), and refrigeration heat recovery (RHR)
Rebates will pay up to 50% of equipment purchase costs, up to $5,000. Applicants may apply under all technology categories, but the maximum rebate is $5,000 per applicant. Up to $500 in installation costs may be included in the total project costs for each technology category, to be reimbursed up to 50%.
The program guidelines detail applicant and equipment eligibility. The program is open on a first-come first-served basis, as funding remains available, or through June 30, 2023. Questions on the program may be directed to Michelle Ferguson at 570.327.3783 or email

The GIANT Company’s Healing the Planet grant program is open

The GIANT Company, in partnership with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, has announced the return of its Healing the Planet Grant Program.  Applications are due April 13.
This year, $300,000 will be awarded to projects that address food waste prevention, reduction and recovery across The GIANT Company’s operating area. Pennsylvania counties include: Adams, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Clearfield, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union and York. Projects can include community composting, increased access to compost for agricultural producers, educational programs regarding food waste prevention, reduction and recovery and diversion of food waste from landfills.

Getting Credit for Our Work

Bureau staff attends Chesapeake Bay Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) Local Water Monitoring Workshop  

Staff from DEPs Chesapeake Bay Partnership Section attended this workshop to discuss local watershed monitoring and how data will be handled through Bay model calibration. The primary workshop purpose was to determine programmatic recommendations for how to improve the accuracy of the Bay model at smaller scales and how to design or adjust local monitoring programs to better estimate nutrient and sediment fate and transport.
The implications for model improvement are particularly timely since the Bay Program is in the process of creating a workplan for the Phase 7 version of the Bay model, which is to be finalized by 2027, with new processes and input parameters to be developed by 2025.
Presentations were given on different types of watersheds, including various size watersheds with different land uses. Some surprising outliers were discovered, such as leaking sanitary systems getting into storm sewer systems causing spikes in nutrients. There can be many reasons for differences in modeling results from monitoring results, including unmodeled load reductions from ecological services such as freshwater mussel populations that assimilate pollutants, as well as acid mine drainage (AMD) remediation and legacy sediment wetland and floodplain restoration BMP implementation. Further communication based on the question and answer sessions will be shared by STAC for comment by partners, including DEP. 

Counties in Action

Adams County getting ready for 2023 implementation

Preparation continues for what will be a productive summer in Adams County. Permits are written for the five CAP stream restoration projects and the CAP Coordinator has met with contractors at each site as part of the ongoing bid process. The bid process is also underway for the CAP raingarden projects being implemented in partnership with a local church. Work also continues on the Tri County NFWF grant project alongside Franklin and Cumberland Counties. The partnership put a plan and a schedule in place and the project is expected to officially begin in July.  

Franklin County Conservation District hosts Winter Ag Meeting

On March 1, 2023, Franklin County Conservation District (FCCD) hosted a Winter Ag Meeting with guest speakers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Meeting attendees enjoyed an interactive question-and-answer session with EPA representatives led by Adam Ortiz, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. Topics ranged from legacy sediment to today's agricultural regulations. Franklin County's water quality trends and successful BMP Verification Program were highlighted during discussions about the Chesapeake Bay's nutrient reduction progress.
In addition to the meeting, FCCD facilitated a focus group with local farmers, a stream tour to spotlight a recent success story, and a focus group with municipal leaders.
EPA officials were given a tour of a recently completed stream restoration project along Paddy Run in Greencastle, PA. Photo provided by FCCD.

Huntingdon County completes multiple stream restorations

In November 2022, the Huntingdon County Conservation District completed over 2,500 feet of stream restoration at two sites in southern Huntingdon County. As a result, these projects will reduce approximately 545,389 pounds of sediment, 484 pounds of nitrogen, and 120 pounds of phosphorus from entering the Juniata River, and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay, each year! Project partners included Huntingdon County Conservation District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and PA DEP.
Three stages of Aughwick Creek stream restoration – before, during, after. 
The first stream restoration project improved an 1,800-foot reach of North Branch Little Aughwick Creek, a high-quality, coldwater fishery and a popular trout fishing stream. The stream is located on Kelly’s Beef Farm near Burnt Cabins, PA. In total, the project included 1,030 feet of in-stream erosion control and fish habitat structures; 600 feet of new streambank fencing, one new off-stream water system, and a three-acre riparian forest buffer consisting of 450 native trees and shrubs.
Three stages of Blacklog Creek stream restoration – before, during, after
The second project is a stream restoration along Blacklog Creek, another high-quality, coldwater fishery and popular trout fishing stream. The Frehn family owns this section of stream in Orbisonia, PA, and approached the conservation district with concerns over their severely eroding streambanks that measured over 25-feet tall! This project stabilized approximately 650 feet of stream with 185 feet of in-stream erosion control and fish habitat structures. Later this spring, the landowners will plant the new banks with native trees and shrubs.

Lancaster Farmland Trust lays the framework for clean water and thriving farms in Lancaster County

Lancaster Farmland Trust (LFT) President Jeff Swinehart, and chair of the Lancaster Clean Water Partners, recently unveiled their new strategic plan that commits to advancing clean water through conservation planning in Lancaster County, while also supporting the growing concerns of farmers in the area. As a proud leader in soil and water restoration in the county, the plan shares common goals for agencies that are interested in connecting and expanding their outreach and outcomes, such as the opportunities for connecting partnerships to advance shared goals with stakeholders and sustaining funding to continue the momentum of clean water in Lancaster County. 

Cattle farm makes moo-ves to reduce nutrients and sediment pollution 

The Brilyn Acres cattle farm in Ephrata will complete their commitment to reducing nutrient and sediment pollution! The project used CAP funding to plant a six-acre streamside forest buffer and build a new heavy-use barn, both of which are identified as best management practices for water restoration. The reductions calculated with FieldDoc approximate the reduction for the HUA of 0.16 acres of area at 84.70 lb./year of nitrogen, 3.60 lb./year of phosphorus, and 741.35 lb./year of sediments. By spring, the grading and seeding around a barn structure will finalize the project.

Londonderry Township and local conservation partners present the first Conewago Darter 5k Run/Walk

Runners and walkers of all ages and abilities are welcome to participate in either the 5k event or 1-mile distance event at the inaugural Conewago Darter 5k run/walk. Bring your family, friends and co-workers out to support clean water in the Conewago Creek Watershed. The course is stroller and wheelchair accessible. The 5k Race, 1-mile Fun Run, and Community Field Day to raise money and awareness for Clean Water Projects in the Conewago Creek Watershed. The event will take place April 2nd in Elizabethtown.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101