April 2022

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 the state leaders, complete plan document, and more details on the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan, 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 Chesapeake Bay Office

Funding Available Now!

DEP announces $17.9 million available for community water quality improvement from Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 Grant Programs

DEP announced that $17.9 million in Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management grant funds is available to organizations and governments to reduce nonpoint source pollution in their local streams, rivers, and lakes. DEP Growing Greener Plus has an anticipated $13 million in grant funds available. Priorities include:
  • Recommendations in Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan 2021 for best management practices, such as no-till farming, streambank forest buffers, and green infrastructure, that reduce stormwater runoff, enable stormwater filtration into the soil, and assist in future flood prevention;
  • A new “Watershed Renaissance” initiative to spur complete implementation of existing watershed plans on small catchment areas in Centre, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Snyder, and Union counties that are identified as agriculturally impaired in the draft 2022 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Report.
Growing Greener was established by law in 1999, and reestablished in 2002. In February, Governor Wolf proposed a $450 million Growing Greener III initiative that, if passed by the General Assembly, would help improve Pennsylvanians’ quality of life and make Pennsylvania’s communities and economy better able to withstand more frequent extreme weather events caused by climate change.
The DEP Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management program has approximately $4.9 million in grant funding available. Funding supports 39 watershed implementation plans for impaired watersheds around the state and development of new watershed implementation plans for other impaired watersheds in environmental justice areas.
Since 1999, the Section 319 program has provided more than $69 million to support over 400 projects in dozens of counties. The program is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through Section 319(h) of the federal Water Pollution Control Act.
Applications for both Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 grants must be submitted online through the Commonwealth’s Electronic Single Application website. The deadline for both programs is 5:00 pm Friday, June 24, 2022.
Instructions may be found at Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Grants. Information on all DEP funding programs may be found at the DEP Grants website.  

South Mountain Partnership accepting mini-grant applications

The South Mountain Partnership is accepting applications for their mini-grant program. The deadline for applications is May 27. The grant program is intended to catalyze on-the-ground projects that further the goals of the partnership, and to advance the capacity of partners to complete projects throughout the region. The program provides funding, on a competitive basis, to projects that sustain the South Mountain landscape’s sense of place by protecting and promoting the region’s landscape resources.

PA Environmental Council now accepting applications for 2022 water trail mini-grants

The PA Environmental Council is now accepting applications for 2022 Water Trail Mini-Grants. The deadline for applications is May 27. Proposed projects must advance program goals such as creating recreational opportunities for all Pennsylvanians on Water Trails; developing trails that support sustainable use of natural resources; increasing and improving physical and psychological access to Water Trails; and connecting water trails to land trails or to other culturally significant community assets. Applicants can request up to $5,000 and project proposals must include a 1:1 match (cash or in-kind). 

Getting Credit for Our Work

Pennsylvania is making strides in remote sensing for Best Management Practice verification

Jordan Baker, HRG, Inc., Community Clean Water Coordinator, and Katie Walker, Chesapeake Conservancy Geospatial Program Manager, co-presented to the Chesapeake Bay Agriculture Workgroup at their April meeting on Phase 1 of a remote sensing effort currently underway in 10 central Pennsylvania counties (Blair, Cambria, Centre, Cumberland, Dauphin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, and Perry counties). The project’s scope of work includes the Chesapeake Conservancy performing an analysis of best management practices (BMPs) through remotely sensed data followed by select in-field verification efforts conducted by qualified professionals, conservation district staff and trained summer interns. BMPs include forest buffers, grassed waterways, streambank exclusion fencing, animal waste management systems, barnyard runoff controls, and detention basins/wet ponds.
For the 2022 project, all field-verified BMPs will be reported in PracticeKeeper for crediting toward CAP implementation. The goal is to advance the technology so that field verification can be limited so that conservationists can focus on working with producers on implementing new BMPs. Efforts being conducted in Pennsylvania are expanding upon existing efforts completed by NRCS in 2016 during their NRCS Remote Sensing Pilot in the Potomac River Basin of Pennsylvania.
The Chesapeake Bay Agriculture Workgroup was supportive of ongoing efforts to progress remote sensing to move toward reducing human capacity required to complete field verification. Long term goals include fully automated processes to report and verify BMPs on an annual basis. Partners will continue to work with DEP and the Chesapeake Bay Program and report progress update in coming months.

BMP data warehouse development underway

DEP’s new BMP Data Warehouse will serve as a central repository and hub for BMP information across programs. The data system will provide Chesapeake Bay annual progress data reporting and other analytic capabilities to better inform local watershed planning and implementation efforts. As presented in DEP’s Phase 3 WIP, the system will bridge data between PracticeKeeper, FieldDocs, and existing PADEP annual program reporting.
A team of DEP staff members will aid in the system design, development, and testing to ensure its optimal functionality, which will include options for additional program reporting as those opportunities become available. DEP anticipates the Data Warehouse system will come online in Fall 2022 and will be available to assist in 2022 progress reporting to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

Programs and Projects by Local, State and Federal Partners

Pennsylvania protects 40 farms in 19 counties from development

In April, Pennsylvania protected 3,528 acres on 40 farms in 19 counties from future development, investing more than $9.7 million in state, and county dollars in preserving prime farmland for tomorrow. The investment also leverages $735,170 that will go toward preserving farms on waitlists in six counties. This month's approvals bring Pennsylvania's total to 6,044 farms and 611,620 acres of farmland that will be forever protected from commercial, industrial or residential development.
The 40 newly preserved farms are in Adams, Berks, Bradford, Butler, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Erie, Franklin, Greene, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Monroe, Northampton, Snyder, Tioga and York counties.
Gov. Tom Wolf's $1.7 billion plan to help Pennsylvania recover from the COVID-19 pandemic would further extend these investments. The plan devotes $450 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to support conservation, recreation, and preservation efforts including farmland preservation.

Conservation Excellence Grant promoted by the Wolf administration

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding was joined on April 13 by conservation partners at Welsh Vista Farms in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County, to highlight Wolf Administration investments facilitating on-farm and community conservation management. The Conservation Excellence Grant (CEG) program has invested more than $4 million in 68 conservation projects since 2019, strengthening community-based conservation efforts across six counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Read more about the visit and the program here.
Established under the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the CEG program is administered by the State Conservation Commission in partnership with County Conservation Districts to provide financial and technical support to implement BMPs on agricultural operations in high-priority areas throughout the commonwealth. It offers farmers financial options through a bundle of grants, loans, and tax credits for BMPs such as cover-cropping, riparian buffers, streambank restoration, nutrient management plans, and more. Eligible projects are reimbursed for costs associated with project engineering and planning, installation, equipment, and post-construction inspection. Priority locations for CEG follow DEP's Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan, prioritizing Lancaster and York as Tier 1 counties.

Susquehanna River Basin Commission volunteers plant trees at Horn Farm Center

Staff from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission volunteered their time and a whole lot of muscle to further their mission of managing and maintaining the basin in a very hands-on way earlier this month. They headed down to the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education in York County to plant trees, clear brush and remove invasive plants. The work was done to enhance the farm’s four-acre riparian buffer project, ultimately protecting the county’s waterways. Trees were provided by the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, and the project is funded by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Infrastructure Investment Authority, The GIANT Company & Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s Healing the Planet Grant Program.

Lower Susquehanna Source Water Protection Partnership Meeting – Register to Join!

Formed in 2012, the Lower Susquehanna Source Water Protection Partnership is an affiliation of organizations and people who collaborate and learn from one another to stay informed about common issues and challenges that affect source water protection. The geographic focus is the Lower Susquehanna River watershed.
On May 19, the next Partnership meeting will feature PennVest Executive Director Brion Johnson discussing how the Clean Water State Revolving Fund can be used for source water protection in light of the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Brion will offer examples of eligible projects and answer questions about how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law affects the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs. Jill Whitcomb, Director of DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office, will discuss how Pennsylvania targets resources to areas identified by local communities as priorities for water quality improvement.
This meeting is offered in hybrid format – limited capacity is available to attend in-person. Advanced registration is required by noon on May 18.

DEP awards $632,897 in Environmental Education grants

DEP announced a total of $632,897 in Environmental Education Grants have been awarded to 63 projects. 15 of the counties that received awards were located within the Chesapeake Bay, covering 20 projects. More than 90% of grant funds will support projects that engage youth and adults living and/or working within Environmental Justice areas. Grants were awarded to schools, institutions, conservation districts, and environmental and community organizations.
“These grants help provide the foundation for environmental education for people of all ages,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This year’s Earth Day theme is ‘Invest in Our Planet’ and each of these projects represents an investment into furthering the environmental education of Pennsylvanians.” 
Read the press releases by region:

Coldwater Heritage Partnership awards $90,000 in conservation grants

  • Berks County Conservation District
  • Boggs Township
  • Clearfield County Conservation District
  • Elk County Conservation District
  • Jefferson County Conservation District
  • Kettle Creek Watershed Association
  • Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy
  • Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
These funds will be used to perform stream assessments and develop conservation plans in two watersheds and complete on-the-ground projects, such as construction of instream fish habitat structures and stabilization of eroding streambanks in nine additional watersheds. 

Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership Tools developed in cooperation with USGS

EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop tools to aid in identifying priority focus areas:

EPA releases Nonpoint Source Watershed Projects Data Explorer

EPA’s Nonpoint Source Management Program recently announced the release of an enhanced web mapping application to explore nonpoint source (NPS) watershed projects. It houses information on where NPS projects are being implemented, how Clean Water Act Section 319 grant funds are used, and progress toward meeting pollution reduction goals. The Data Explorer is a useful tool for interested community members, local watershed partners, and other non-governmental stakeholders to understand the work being done in their watersheds to restore and protect water quality. Enhanced features include a dynamic map with integrated reports that update based on the map view, data filters to narrow search criteria to focus results, and customizable reports for download. The application also integrates NPS program information with other EPA data systems, such as How’s My Waterway, for integrated watershed management.

EPA Nonpoint Source Community Listening Sessions

In September 2021, EPA released a memo entitled Near-term Actions to Support Environmental Justice in the Nonpoint Source Program. In the memo, EPA committed to taking action to ensure equitable and fair access to the benefits of cleaner water provided by the Clean Water Act Section 319 program. Among the actions EPA commits to in the memo is an ongoing dialogue with the Nonpoint Source (NPS) community as this work goes forward. 
The EPA NPS program is hosting four listening sessions open to all NPS subgrantees and those considering applying for an NPS grant. If you are interested in participating in a listening session, please sign up through the Eventbrite Registration for one of the following dates:   
  • Tuesday, May 17 at 1:00pm-2:30pm ET  
  • Tuesday, May 24 at 6:00pm-7:30pm ET  
  • Wednesday, May 25 at 3:00pm-4:30pm ET  
These listening sessions will provide an overview of the NPS program and the Justice40 initiative, and a facilitated discussion with subgrantees. The discussion will aim to understand the challenges facing environmental justice communities, Tribes, and Indigenous communities, how these challenges impact NPS programs working within these communities, and how EPA can help address these challenges through action in the Clean Water Act Section 319 program. 
If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Cyd Curtis (Curtis.cynthia@epa.gov) or Steve Epting (epting.steve@epa.gov).

DEP Chesapeake Bay Office

Behind the scenes: County partners and the DEP Chesapeake Bay Office team working to address issues and get projects funded and on the ground

With spring in full swing, county partners are in the midst of a busy project implementation season. With all Countywide Action Plan (CAP) Implementation grant agreements and amendments fully executed, county partners began utilizing the most recent CAP funding to get projects started on the ground. County partners are performing field visits, meeting with landowners, and going through the bidding process for many of this season’s nutrient-reducing implementation projects.
The Chesapeake Bay Office and DEP Region CAP Support Teams continue to support these efforts on a daily basis and with monthly one-on-one meetings with county partners to address issues in the implementation process and answer technical and funding related questions.
The Chesapeake Bay Office is working on the 2021 Chesapeake Bay Healthy Waters Healthy Communities report. This report will showcase many of the amazing county-based projects and local partnerships built through the Phase 3 WIP and CAP efforts. This report will be published later this year.
Finally, the Chesapeake Bay Office developed a handout that showcases the impact of Countywide Action Planning and the power of local solutions to lower nutrient and sediment pollution. The handout highlights trends and needs and programmatic recommendations identified by county partners through their CAPs. Trends and needs include increased and dedicated funding, workforce creation, and improved data reporting and verification. Expanded incentives and technical assistance, BMP verification and monitoring assessment, and accelerated project implementation are highlighted county-based programmatic recommendations to state and federal action leaders. The Chesapeake Bay Office is utilizing these trends and recommendations in ongoing efforts with state and federal WIP action leaders and have shared this handout with county partners for use with local stakeholders. 

Counties in Action

Adams County successfully hosts a tree distribution event

The Adams County Conservation District recently hosted a tree distribution event. Over 9,000 trees were distributed to local residents who will be planting them on their properties throughout the entire county. The trees given out are part of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Keystone 10 Million Trees initiative.  A similar event will be hosted by the Conservation District again in the fall. 
Adams County is also partnering with Cumberland County, Franklin County, Capital RC&D and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay on a tri-county BMP verification/implementation project. The partnership will be applying for NFWF’s Small Watershed Grant to fund this project. This project will re-verify many BMP projects throughout the tri-county area to get credit for work that is already on the ground. Verifiers will also gauge operators’ interest levels for installing new BMPs in addition to the ones they already have.  

Centre County preservation successes

ClearWater Conservancy has preserved two properties in Centre County. Gray’s Woods Preserve has been permanently preserved through a conservation easement. The 149-acre property was acquired by Patton Township through its Open Space program. The Bella Vista Farm was preserved in February. This 22-acre property is located just west of Musser Gap and contains sensitive wetland habitat, farmland, and woods, as well as 1,150 feet of Slab Cabin Run, an important local stream that flows into Spring Creek.

Cumberland County Conservation District 2021 Annual Report

In 2021, the Cumberland County Conservation District (CCCD) completed 79 farm inspections to ensure farmers have their Manure Management or Nutrient Management plans, Chapter 102 Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control plans or agriculture erosion and sediment plans, where applicable. The CCCD received nearly $1.1 million in SCC CEG funds for ag BMPs and has allocated nearly all of the money for six projects. The BMPs to be installed include roofed heavy use areas with manure stacking pads, supporting structures for manure digestion and cover crops. This year, 63 farmers participated in the CCCD cover crop incentive program, with a total of 8,261 acres planted and 7,377 of those acres are no till. Read the full annual report here.

Lancaster collaborates on National Fish and Wildlife (NFWF) grant applications

The Lancaster Clean Water Partners hosted a Connect-and-Prep session with partner organizations to increase collaboration on NFWF grant applications. Attendees reviewed helpful layers on the Partners' Collaborative Watershed Mapping tool, emphasized the CAP as a tool for applications, and a NFWF field liaison shared insight on how to strengthen applications. Collaborating on large grant applications leads to stronger proposals from Lancaster which leads to achieving local clean water goals together! 

Franklin & Marshall College legacy sediment initiative launches

Thanks to a $1.25 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Chesapeake Watershed Initiative at Franklin & Marshall College is underway in Lancaster county. Its mission is to generate and gather knowledge through primary research and to conduct education and outreach to key stakeholders— farmers, land developers, local and state government officials, businesses and manufacturers— to build support for and increase adoption of, cost-effective and science-based legacy sediment restoration projects that have meaningful impacts on water quality.
While these projects appear to be initially expensive, stream and wetland restorations at legacy sediment hot spots actually exhibit tremendous economies of scale and enduring environmental benefits. In reality, these types of restorations are highly cost-effective in comparison to other restoration options for water quality improvement.

Luzerne County Conservation District receives PENNVEST grant to construct agricultural BMPs

Luzerne Conservation District received a $630,000 grant to construct a concrete manure storage tank and associated transfer system, as well as storm drainage components on the Kevin Drasher farm, a beef and dairy operation. The project will implement agricultural BMPs that will reduce 4,163 pounds of sediment and 4,937 pounds of nitrogen from the Chesapeake Bay watershed annually. Read about additional projects funded through PENNVEST here.

Snyder County Conservation District holds live stake training

Snyder County Conservation District hosted an informal training to educate landowners, watershed associations, and conservation groups on the proper techniques for harvesting and planting live stakes. On March 8, 2022, this hands-on training was held at Faylor Lake in Beaver Springs. Participants learned how to identify live stake tree species, proper harvesting and planting methods, and how cost-effective live stakes are at reducing streambank erosion along local waterways.

Lancaster Conservancy to preserve nearly 1,100 acres in York County

Lancaster Conservancy is on track to preserve nearly 1,100 acres of mostly natural woodland and freshwater resources in York County. This acquisition will be the largest in the Conservancy’s half-century existence. This acquisition will expand the existing Hellam Hills Conservation Area from about 1,040 acres to more than 2,100. The area, described as a critical water and forest resource, is near the site where the Codorus Creek flows into the Susquehanna River. It is north of Route 30 and across the river from Riverfront Park in East Donegal Township in Lancaster County.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101