December 2021

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

Programs and Projects by State Partners

Farmers in 14 Tier 2 and 3 counties to be surveyed by Penn State in winter 2022 to document conservation practices

Starting in January 2022, farmers in 14 of the 43 Pennsylvania counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will have a chance to self-report conservation practices implemented on their farms by completing a survey from Penn State.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences is leading the survey effort, in partnership with Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, PennAg Industries Association, Pennsylvania Farmers Union, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission, the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and local county conservation districts.
Following up from the successful 2016 and 2020 surveys, this year’s survey will focus on remaining Tier 2 and 3 counties, specifically:
  • Tier 2 Counties: Bedford, Centre, Cumberland, Lebanon
  • Tier 3 Counties: Columbia, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder, Tioga 
Farmers will be mailed an invitation letter and link to a secure online form for filling out the survey. Farmers will also have an option for filling out a paper version. All responses will be kept completely confidential and results reported will be in summary fashion without names or locations of participants.
The survey provides an excellent opportunity to get a broader baseline of data relevant to conservation practice implementation and meeting CAP goals for agriculture. CAP partners should look for details on the survey launch in January 2022 and encourage farmers to complete the survey. 

DEP’s Water Quality Data Collection Protocols and Assessment Methods have been updated

Pennsylvania DEP’s Water Quality Data Collection Protocols and Assessment Methods (a.k.a., the Monitoring Book and Assessment Book, respectively) have been updated and placed on DEP’s external website for downloading.
The updated books incorporate several new and refined protocols and methods. A few of the major revisions to the Assessment Book include:
  • Updates to the Fish Tissue Consumption Assessment Method, Subchapter 2.6 (most notably, added PFOS advisory limits for fish tissue)
  • The addition of the Stream Fish Assemblage Assessment Method, Subchapter 2.7 (incorporated the Thermal Fish Index (TFI) into our assessment methodology)
  • Updates to the Discrete Physicochemical Assessment Method, Subchapter 3.1 (clarified sampling and criteria frequency, and added a section on criteria duration and frequency considerations)
  • Updates to the Assessment Determination and Delisting Method, Chapter 5 (added ATTAINS delisting reason codes, clarified delisting language and requirements for 4b, and added language regarding listing date)
Updates to the Monitoring Book can be found in the book.

Governor Wolf announced 100 new projects that will improve infrastructure, enhance community development, and protect the environment

On November 19, Governor Tom Wolf announced 100 new project approvals through the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) for environmental and infrastructure projects in counties across Pennsylvania. The projects are designated for specific initiatives as follows:
Flood Mitigation: 10 projects approved; $1,379,295 total
Greenways, Trails and Recreation: 78 projects approved; $8,010,727 total
Sewage Facilities: Two projects approved; $40,976 total
Watershed Restoration and Protection: 10 projects approved; $1,035,784 total
complete list of Act 13 projects approved can be found online. The approved projects are highlighted in pale yellow.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay receives over $900,000 to accelerate agricultural conservation implementation in Pennsylvania

In partnership with EPA and its Chesapeake Bay Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded $915,000 to the Alliance as part of its Pennsylvania Most Effective Basins Grant Program. This funding will accelerate the Alliance’s on-the-ground agricultural conservation implementation work in Pennsylvania.
More specifically, this funding will prioritize agricultural best management practice (BMP) implementation and riparian forest buffer establishment on agricultural lands in Pennsylvania; ultimately supporting the Commonwealth’s 2025 water quality goals within the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 WIP. Through collaboration with farmers, partners, local businesses, and municipalities, the Alliance will rapidly implement the most cost-effective water quality improvements to farms located in high-priority watersheds in Pennsylvania.  

Franklin & Marshall College launches Chesapeake Watershed Initiative

Franklin & Marshall College’s Chesapeake Watershed Initiative’s overarching goal is to achieve significant, far-reaching outcomes for stewardship and restoration in the vast watershed, through applied research and knowledge generation, education, and outreach. The Initiative will involve local nonprofit and private organizations, federal and state regulatory agencies, research institutions, and community groups as well as college and high school students. The new initiative is supported through a three-year, $1.25-million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, a Pittsburgh philanthropy. 

Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center Invites Applications for Watershed Project Coordinator

The Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center seeks an energetic, motivated individual with experience and training in agricultural and natural resource sciences to join its team in the Lower Susquehanna Office as the AEC’s Watershed Project Coordinator.
The work involves extensive collaboration between Penn State researchers, Extension Educators, students and other staff and external partners working across the land and water interface. It is a mix of research project management and technical support, outreach and education working with stakeholder organizations and landowners, and volunteer and student intern coordination and management. Learn more and apply.

More than $17,500 awarded to conservation districts to promote Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in PA

PACD awarded $17,540 to conservation districts for projects in eight counties for the 2021-22 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Mini-Grant round. The following conservation districts were awarded up to $3,000:
  • Armstrong: $1,500
  • Blair: $3,000
  • Clinton: $1,600
  • Indiana: $1,985
  • Jefferson: $1,800
  • Lancaster: $3,000
  • Lycoming: $2,255
  • Potter: $2,400

Funding Available Now!

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) accepting applications from farm and forest landowners along Kittatinny Ridge to permanently preserve sensitive lands

Agricultural landowners and owners of non-industrial private forestland can apply for funding for USDA NRCS RCPP Entity Held Easements in a new RCPP project led by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture entitled, “Kittatinny Ridge Conservation Landscape.”
RCPP Entity Held Easements provide funding to cooperating entities to preserve agricultural land with a focus on preserving prime and statewide important soils, or forestland.
NRCS conservationists will work with producers to develop a conservation plan on their land to identify concerns and opportunities, help determine objectives, and recommend solutions. The Kittatinny Ridge RCPP project area can be viewed on the map posted on the PA NRCS website.
NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at application cut-off deadlines. Pennsylvania landowners who submit applications by January 4, 2022, will have a higher chance of application approval in 2022, as funding is limited.
Applications received after that date will be accepted and considered for funding in additional ranking review cycles if funds remain. March 1, 2022 is the date for the second 2022 review.
Visit the NRCS-PA Regional Conservation Partnership Program webpage for more information.  Questions should be directed to Susan Marquart, PA RCPP Manager, 717-237-2237.

National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) accepting proposals for urban agriculture conservation grants

As urban and community agriculture continues to grow in importance for clients of conservation districts, NACD is proud to continue their partnership with NRCS to deliver the Urban Agriculture Conservation (UAC) Grant Initiative.
NACD is again accepting applications for up to $50,000 to support projects that promote the delivery of conservation technical assistance in urban and community-oriented settings, including for projects that serve rural populations. See the full RFP online, with applications due January 31, 2022.

NRCS accepting applications for $300,000 for funding forest easements in 12 Pennsylvania counties

NRCS has announced that $300,000 is available to forest landowners in targeted counties through the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP). The deadline for applications is January 4, 2022. HFRP helps landowners restore, enhance, and protect forestland resources on private lands through easements and financial assistance.
HFRP funding is available for permanent forest easements with habitat restoration.
Only landowners in Adams, York, Berks, Bedford, Huntingdon, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Mifflin, Snyder, Armstrong, and Beaver Counties may be eligible for HFRP funding. HRFP aids the recovery of endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act--including the protection of the Indiana bat, improves plant and animal biodiversity and enhances carbon sequestration.
Interested landowners must apply through their local NRCS County Field Office. To apply, landowners must complete an “AD-1153 Application for Long Term Contract Assistance.” The application form must be signed by all landowners on the property ownership deed. For more information, visit the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) webpage.

PA Department of Agriculture will accept applications for county soil health education grants starting January 3

The Department of Agriculture announced it will begin accepting applications for Soil Health Education Grants starting January 3 through February 28, 2022. The program provides mini grants to eligible county farmland preservation boards to help maintain the long-term economic viability of farms and protect the investment of public funds in preserving farms that are subject to perpetual agricultural conservation easements by providing funds for soil health education and outreach efforts.
The Department has $10,000 available for this program and individual grants cannot exceed $1,000. Click Here for the formal notice. Questions should be directed to Andrea Reiner, 717-836-3237,

NFWF accepting applications for Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program through January 25

NFWF and the Wildlife Habitat Council, in cooperation with EPA, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FedEx and Southern Company are pleased to solicit applications for the 2022 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program. The deadline for proposals is January 25, 2022. This program will award approximately $2.6 million in grants nationwide.
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grant program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships focused on improving water quality, watersheds and the species and habitats they support. Projects include a variety of ecological improvements along with targeted community outreach, education and stewardship.
Ecological improvements may include one or more of the following: wetland, riparian, forest and coastal habitat restoration; wildlife conservation, community tree canopy enhancement, water quality monitoring and green infrastructure best management practices for managing run-off.
Projects should increase access to the benefits of nature, reduce the impact of environmental hazards and engage local communities, particularly underserved communities, in project planning, outreach and implementation.
This program expects that applicants will represent a mixture of urban and rural communities. NFWF may use a mix of public and private funding sources to support any grant made through this program and we expect that more than half of projects awarded will support underserved communities.
Grants for this program are available nationwide, but additional funding is available for the geographic priorities listed in the Funding Availability section of this RFP. 

NRCS announces conservation funding opportunities for FY2022

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing the fiscal year 2022 assistance opportunities for agricultural producers and private landowners for key programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program, and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). While USDA's NRCS accepts applications for these programs year-round, producers and landowners should apply for AMA and EQIP by January 1, 2022, and ACEP by January 4, 2022, to be considered for this year's funding. 

DEP Chesapeake Bay Office

DEP's Chesapeake Bay Office awarded $17.4 million in state and federal funds to counties for continued work on implementing CAPs

The 2022 CAP Implementation Grant round builds on two successful years of funding CAP development for all participating Bay counties and CAP implementation projects in Pilot and Tier 2 counties. Tier 3 and 4 Counties are also eligible to receive CAP Implementation funding in 2022. These awards include funding for: CAP Coordinators, BMP projects that maximize nutrient and sediment reduction goals, and BMP verification for all participating Bay counties.

Pennsylvania’s 2020 Chesapeake Bay Progress Report is released

Through extensive work under the Wolf Administration, Pennsylvania is at an unprecedented turning point in improving its share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. A key sign: Despite significant challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many community leaders, farmers and other landowners, and sector partners persevered together and independently to improve local water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment pollution. All 34 counties that were asked to develop and implement Countywide Action Plans (CAPs) have signed on to do so, a level of commitment whose significance is impossible to overstate.
Farmers also stepped up to meet their commitment to reducing nutrient and sediment loads. Many developed and implemented conservation plans or joined the ranks of those using fertilizers more efficiently, planting cover crops or using no-till technology. In doing so, they joined the wastewater treatment sector in reaching record levels of nitrogen and phosphorus reductions. Increasingly, farmers recognize that soil, nitrogen, and phosphorus washing into streams is a symptom of a farm operating at less than peak efficiency. For many, the pandemic underscored the importance of ensuring their farms’ future viability, which requires stewardship of soil and water today.
Other landowners took steps last year to plant trees on streambanks and replace turf with meadow, responding to a major outreach effort and offer of financial support and expert help from the commonwealth—one of many new approaches to support local and sector water quality improvement efforts. In a year when an undertaking of this scale easily could have derailed, the center held. Pennsylvanians are forging ahead to accelerate a transformation in our share of the watershed. Check out more about Pennsylvania and its county partners progress in the 2020 Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities: Chesapeake Bay Progress Report.

CBO hosts third BMP verification webinar

The CBO held a follow-up session to the initial two BMP Verification sessions on December 1, 2021, as part of the “Webinar Wednesday” sessions.
The webinar discussed opportunities to leverage partners, pool resources for verification strategies like remote sensing, and expand staffing temporarily through internships, student mentorship programs, and existing volunteer networks. The webinar also provided examples of where counties may want to focus, such as narrowing the scope to a group of priority BMPs, as well as the types of training that would be available to ensure that documentation of BMPs follows the required quality assurance protocols.
After reviewing the new and existing CAPs and identifying needs documented and presented by all counties throughout the watershed to better inventory and assess historic BMP implementation, the CBO has made additional funds available to every county that has developed a CAP, to be spent in 2022 on creating an inventory and assessing historic BMP implementation.
This funding opportunity is being provided through the EPA Chesapeake Bay Regulatory Accountability Program (CBRAP) grant, and is meant to be a step forward in ensuring that every BMP that has been implemented is being documented and reported for nutrient and sediment reductions in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model. 

CBO hosts implementation webinar series

The CBO hosted the Transitioning to CAP Implementation webinar on December 6, 2021, to equip Tier 3 and 4 CAP Coordinators and their partners to successfully transition from planning to CAP implementation. More than 70 people attended the webinar, with representatives from all the counties, as well as DEP Region CAP Support Team members. The webinar discussed the tools and support available to the counties throughout CAP implementation. The Pennsylvania Community Clean Water Implementation Guide was introduced to the counties, as a resource for developing and executing their CAP implementation strategies.
Throughout the week of December 13, the CBO hosted regional Implementation Success workshops for Tier 3 and 4 counties and their corresponding DEP Region CAP Support Team. These workshops were an interactive forum for the counties to discuss their CAP implementation strategies going forward. Starting in January, the Tier 3 and 4 counties will begin monthly county grouping one-on-one meetings with the CBO and the DEP Region CAP Support Teams.

Getting Credit for Our Work

Chesapeake Bay Office 2021 Progress Reporting Update

DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office (CBO) submitted its 2021 Progress Run data submission to EPA on December 6, meeting its deadline. A total of 9,681 new records from Pennsylvania’s reporting programs were submitted, which is 1,558 more records than reported in 2020. This reporting included data submitted from 35 distinct reporting programs which are documented in DEP CBO’s newly updated Quality Assurance Project Plan.
An increasing portion of Pennsylvania’s BMP data comes from the PracticeKeeper data reporting system that County Conservation Partners and County Conservation District Offices use. Approximately 65% of the 2021 record count was gathered from PracticeKeeper.  
DEP is greatly appreciative of all the work that program reporters do to complete this effort. From field inspections and planners to data entry and program administrators, none of Pennsylvania’s progress and success could occur without your hard work.

Counties in Action

Adams County focused on implementation

Adams County is utilizing its 2020 and 2021 CAP Implementation Grant funds to install stormwater BMPs in Cumberland Township and a buffer along Middle Creek. Its Advanced Nutrient Management Project will also continue into 2022. In lieu of the Legislation/Policy Team meeting, the Conservation District will be sending a recorded presentation about its CAP and CAP goals to state legislators. This presentation will also be used by Adams County as an outreach tool in other ways as well, posted to websites and sent to various groups to help get them involved. Adams County has been in discussion with The Nature Conservancy about partnering to accomplish goals in stream and wetland restoration. 

Franklin County farm improves horse operation with conservation BMPs

The Franklin County Conservation District (FCCD) recently wrapped up a project in northern Franklin County funded by the CAP Implementation grant program. The project took place on a streamside horse operation in need of conservation improvements to stabilize their animal heavy use areas and manure storage practices. The funding helped them to complete the more expensive structural practices while beginning more cost-effective projects on their own. In late 2020, these landowners were funded to make the needed improvements to prevent nutrients and sediment from entering their on-site stream, which drains to the Conodoguinet Creek.
This funding covered a portion of the full project, and the project will continue with additional funds provided by DEP’s Growing Greener Plus program. When the full project is complete, the property will be newly equipped with fenced animal heavy use area protection, a covered manure storage (pictures below), off-stream watering for the animals, and an expanded riparian buffer which the owners began on their own, before funding was available. This project includes several Chesapeake Bay BMPs: animal waste management systems, runoff control, pasture management, off-stream watering, and streamside fencing with a riparian buffer, all of which will significantly reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff to our local waterways, and subsequently, the Chesapeake Bay.
After this operation received funding through the CAP Implementation Grant, they were able to install a roofed manure storage to store their manure off the ground and covered to protect clean water from mixing with the manure. 

Huntingdon County reforests 13 acres

Over 13 acres of land were recently reforested with trees and shrubs in Huntingdon Borough and Smithfield Township by the Huntingdon County Conservation District (HCCD). The HCCD received a grant for the project from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Stream Relief Program last spring.

York County high school students plant 1,200 trees along Hartman Run

About eighty Northeastern High School students planted 1,200 trees along Hartman Run, a tributary to the Susquehanna River in York County. This was part of a twenty-acre riparian buffer project being planted to help reduce nitrogen runoff into York County’s waterways. The project was the idea of Northeastern School District teacher and Master Watershed Steward, Mark Lentz. 
The project was made possible through a partnership with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Master Watershed Stewards and was fully funded by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101