June 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

Programs and Projects by Local, State and Federal Partners

Hammer Creek Advanced Restoration Plan public meeting

On June 6, 2022, DEP staff from the Chesapeake Bay Office and the TMDL Section along with the Lebanon County Conservation District (LCCD), TeamAg, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Trout Unlimited, presented the recently published Advanced Restoration Plan (ARP) to landowners and municipal planners in the Hammer Creek watershed in Lebanon County.
The Hammer Creek ARP will address agricultural and legacy sediment impairments and there will be grant funding available for projects in this high priority watershed. LCCD presented the Countywide Action Plan (CAP) and described how this ARP complements the CAP. During the meeting, landowners energetically engaged the speakers about possible projects on their properties and concerns about past flooding. The issue of flooding is directly addressed by the ARP by removing legacy sediments that will increase floodplain connectivity and capacity, and turn the area back into an open wetland stream ecosystem.
Strong collaboration is being developed in this watershed and projects are already being designed this year for construction next year. This meeting brought together the most needed partners, the landowners, and brought everyone up to speed with the plan while giving them an example of a current legacy sediment project at the Barry Farm to help build momentum to do more in the watershed.

Penn State undergraduate Ag Stewardship and Conservation Certificate

The Agricultural Stewardship and Conservation Certificate program offered by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences gives students interested in agricultural stewardship an opportunity for classroom and hands-on learning in the sustainability of agricultural soil and water resources. The program also helps train the next generation of conservation professionals at a time when Pennsylvania's ag industry is seeking more professionals to assist ag producers with implementing practices that will protect and enhance their farms and improve local water quality. The program also introduces students to the state's Nutrient Management Specialist certification and will allow them to complete several modules toward the certification required by the state.
So far, four PSU graduates have received the Ag Stewardship and Conservation Certificate. Of those four, Craig Zemitis is currently an Ag Preservation Specialist with the Lebanon County Conservation District (CCD); Amanda Grube is an Ag Conservation Tech with the Lancaster CCD; and Emily Stambaugh is an intern at the Penn State Ag and Environment Center, working on the Lower Susquehanna Initiative. There are three current students working their way through the certificate courses and internship requirements. One of them, Megan Kownurko, is currently a summer intern with the Centre CCD, who was hired using CAP funds to update the counties inventory of BMPs in PracticeKeeper.

Conservation Districts award over $7 million in Conservation Excellence Grants to Tier 1 and 2 counties. Special project underway in Salisbury Township.

The Conservation Excellence Grant (CEG) program has expanded into seven counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Pennsylvania: Tier 1: Lancaster and York counties, and Tier 2: Bedford, Centre, Cumberland, Franklin, and Lebanon counties. Participating conservation districts have committed over $7.339 million in CEG program funds to eligible projects such as barnyard runoff and manure storage and manure stacking areas; roofed heavy use area protection (HUAP); grassed waterways and diversions; and cover crops. Conservation districts have processed $1.508 million in payments to farmers for completion of best management practices (BMPs) that are part of an agricultural erosion and sedimentation plan, conservation plan, nutrient or manure management plan.
A special project between the State Conservation Commission and Lancaster Farmland Trust (LFT) has created a public-private partnership utilizing Bay funding and the CEG program concepts for the implementation of BMPs on several farms in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County. LFT is currently working with four project sites to complete BMP design or construction activities and has processed over $200,000 for several completed projects, including roofed manure storages, animal heavy use area protection and stormwater management BMPs. LFT anticipates expanding its funding support to four more project sites, with match from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
More information on the CEG program and how to apply with a participating county conservation district can be found at Conservation Excellence Grant Program

REAP application period closes with over 500 applications received. Tax credit requests exceed $19 million.

The State Conservation Commission (SCC) received 500 applications for the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program as of May 31, 2022. Tax credit requests from those applications are estimated to be over $19 million, an amount exceeding the $13 million in tax credits available to Pennsylvania farmers for measures to improve soil and water quality for this program year. Over $10 million in REAP credits were approved for projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed during the 2021-22 program round.
REAP tax credits are available to agricultural producers who implement soil or water protection best management practices (i.e. cover crops, waste management systems) or purchase equipment (i.e. no-till equipment, manure injectors,  precision ag equipment) that reduces nutrient and sediment runoff, enhancing soil and improving the quality of Pennsylvania’s waterways. Farmers may receive up to $250,000 in REAP tax credits, in any seven-year period, at a rate of 50 to 75 percent of the project’s eligible out-of-pocket costs. Farmers whose operation is in a watershed with an EPA-mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) can receive REAP tax credits of 90 percent of out-of-pocket costs for some projects.
The 2022-23 REAP application round will open on August 1, 2022.  

Pennsylvania continues to lead the nation in farmland preservation

Pennsylvania continues to lead the nation in the number of preserved farms, investing more than $1.6 billion since 1988 to protect the state's valuable farmland. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced on June 16th that Pennsylvania protected 2,264 acres on 32 farms in 18 counties from future development, investing nearly $8.2 million in state, county and local dollars to ensure that prime farmland is not lost to development. This brings Pennsylvania's total to 6,076 farms and 613,884 acres in 58 counties, now forever protected from commercial, industrial or residential development.
The 32 newly preserved farms are in Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Schuylkill, Washington and York counties.

WeConservePA releases Pennsylvania Land Trust Census Report

WeConservePA has released the Pennsylvania land trust census report. Highlights from the report found that between 2012 and 2021, land trusts in Pennsylvania:
  • Conserved 208,026 acres – 325 square miles;
  • Conserved 57 acres per day – an average of 20,803 acres per year;
  • Increased land conservation by 25.5%;
  • Completed 325 land acquisitions, protecting 47,366 acres;
  • Completed 1,453 easements conserving 70,872 acres;
  • Transferred 89,835 acres to government for parks, game lands, and other public spaces
  • 107,300 Pennsylvanians contribute to land trusts in the state
  • 122,868 acres owned by land trusts in Pennsylvania

Western PA Conservancy and Berkshire Hathaway award Watershed Mini Grants

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Berkshire Hathaway Energy recently awarded 20 grants, totaling $41,000, to 20 different local environmental organizations in 13 counties across Pennsylvania as part of their 2022 Watershed Mini Grant Program.
Among the awardees, four are located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed:

Wolf Administration, Fish And Boat Commission, And Game Commission Celebrate First Pennsylvania Native Species Day

Leaders from seven state agencies recently highlighted the importance of protecting native species, which are critical to protecting our natural resources, at a stream restoration site at Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission headquarters. 
The agencies, along with 14 organizations in academia, environmental advocacy, and agriculture and other industries, are members of the Governor’s Invasive Species Council (GISC). The council created Pennsylvania Native Species Day to celebrate the state’s diverse native plants, insects, and animals and increase people’s understanding of the importance of protecting them as invasive nonnative species proliferate. 

Funding Available Now!

NRCS-PA accepting applications for Farmland Preservation Grants in Bay watershed

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Pennsylvania has $1.5 million in funding available through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to help state and local agencies and land trusts protect agricultural lands and wetlands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The deadline for applications is August 16. Funding is available for the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program to purchase permanent easements on private agricultural lands. Interested partners should contact Hathaway Jones, Easement Coordinator, at: 717-237-2100 or send email to hathaway.jones@usda.gov. Visit the NRCS-PA webpage for more information on assistance available to landowners.

County Commissioners approve $3.4 million in ARPA funds for water quality projects in Lancaster County

The Lancaster County Commissioners voted unanimously on June 23 to approve $3.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for water quality projects in Lancaster County that need additional funding to be completed.  
“Clean water work has been ongoing in the county for years but not at the scale and pace required to accomplish the Countywide Action Plan (CAP). The ARPA funding is a critical piece that will get Lancaster closer to achieving its goals and launch the transformational work that the county needs. From designing innovative conservation practices to putting shovels in the ground to supporting both a healthy stream and a landowner’s bottom line, these projects will have far-reaching impacts that spotlight Lancaster on the map as a restoration success story,” said Allyson Gibson, Lancaster Clean Water Partners Director of Strategic Partnerships and Programs.
The $3.4 million will leverage $9,094,025 and directly fund the following projects: 
  • Agricultural best management practices on farms in Fulton, Colerain, Paradise, and East Lampeter townships 
  • A multi-municipal stream restoration and trail project along the Conewago Creek in Londonderry and Mount Joy townships
  • Urban forest planting in the City of Lancaster to implement the Trees for People Plan 
  • A stream restoration project along the Gross Run tributary in Ephrata Borough that involves over 40 landowners 
  • A stream restoration and floodplain restoration project along the Little Conestoga Creek on Franklin & Marshall’s campus
  • Eight continuous instream monitoring units to be placed in the Conestoga and Pequea watersheds
  • Multi-year riparian buffer establishment support for landowners with newly planted buffers
  • Conestoga Water Trail planning to improve public access and expand recreational opportunities on the river
The original proposal was for $27 million to fund 53 projects that 40 partner organizations submitted. Projects were prioritized according to both the Commissioners' guidelines for ARPA and potential to achieve the goals of the CAP. Examples of criteria included “last in" funding, transformative for the community, timeline, as well as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load reductions. 
The Partners will work alongside the Lancaster County Conservation District to finalize the agreement and required contracts with the county so reporting and documentation steps are clear. Sub-agreements will be developed for each project lead. There is more to do, and all will continue to bring together resources that get us closer to Lancaster County’s common goal of clean and clear by 2040.
Also included in the Commissioners’ ARPA approval was Martic Township for their Community ARPA award ($119,500) for the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail Crossing project.

American Water Charitable Foundation accepting applications for Water and the Environment grants

The American Water Charitable Foundation is now accepting applications for Water And The Environment Grants. The deadline to apply is June 30.
This grant program funds projects focused on clean water, conservation, environmental education, climate variability, and water-based recreation in American Water service territories-- like PA American Water. Examples include programs that improve, restore or protect watersheds/water quality; promote water conservation; and/or improve equitable access to water-based recreation in underserved communities. Other examples include environmental projects that seek to educate, inform and advance environmental issues to preserve and protect natural resources.
Visit the American Water Charitable Foundation webpage for other grant opportunities which typically have several deadlines to apply through the year.

TreePennsylvania provides trees to communities

TreePennsylvania, the state's non-profit urban and community forestry council, is helping Pennsylvania communities increase tree canopy cover and manage their urban and community forest. The new Bare Root Tree Program can provide communities with between ten and twenty large-caliper bare root trees for planting on land owned by the municipality (streetside rights-of-way and parks).
For fall 2022 plantings, the preliminary applications will be available online July 15 and must be submitted by July 29. Interested communities can apply for the grant through the TreePennsylvania website.

Getting Credit for Our Work

Chesapeake Bay Office 2021 Progress reporting update

DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office submitted its 2021 Progress Run data and updated 2021 Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) that documented the sources of these records to U.S. EPA on December 6, 2021.
In June, EPA completed its review of the numeric progress data and its associated QAPP document. Pennsylvania’s 2021 Progress run documented the reduction of 2,480,000 pounds per year of Nitrogen, 60,000 pounds per year of Phosphorus, and 61,000,000 pounds per year of Sediment. 
EPA did not allow Pennsylvania’s alternative approach for reporting Commodity Cover Crops or its reporting of unused Wetland Mitigation Bank BMPs because the reporting of these methods and practices has not been officially approved by the Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership.  DEP staff is working within the Partnership’s Agriculture and Wetlands workgroups to get the reporting of these practices approved for future progress runs so that Pennsylvania can get appropriate credit for these BMPs in the future.

DEP Chesapeake Bay Office

Chesapeake Bay Office hosted multiple training webinars in June

During the month of June, the Chesapeake Bay Office hosted three Webinar Wednesday sessions for county CAP partners and stakeholders. The first was held on June 1st and was titled, “Tier 2 County Milestones and CAP Progress Reporting”. It provided an overview of the Two-Year Milestone and Annual Progress Report process and timeline to CAP Coordinators and CAP lead entities.
The second webinar was held on June 8th and was titled, “2022 FieldDoc Walkthrough and Update”. It provided county CAP Coordinators and county CAP lead entities with a walkthrough of the FieldDoc data reporting website and an overview of the coming updates to reporting requirements and the FieldDoc User Guide.
The third webinar was held on June 22nd and was titled, “Partners. Projects. Progress: Behind the Scenes in Clearfield, Franklin, and Lancaster Counties.” County partners from these three counties highlighted the work being done within these counties to meet their CAP goals and gave CAP coordinators the opportunity to share advice and answer questions. All three webinars were recorded and are available for county partners to view on the Chesapeake Bay Program section of the Clean Water Academy. 

Counties in Action

Adams County community outreach efforts

The Adams County Conservation District is working with Adams County Trout Unlimited (TU), the PA Fish and Boat Commission and local businesses on a stream restoration project along the Conewago Creek. The CAP coordinator assisted TU with a grant application to South Mountain Partnership to help pay for this project, and the project has been selected as one of the finalists.
The county will be working with the Interstate Commissioner for the Potomac River Basin and Penn State Extension on presenting to local fruit growers about nitrogen management on orchards.
The CAP coordinator is working on finding a method of tracking/reporting Urban Nutrient Management so Adams County can apply those practices in partnership with schools, golf courses, the National Parks Service and other partners.     

Chester County Conservation District creates ag conservation videos

Chester County Conservation District (CCCD) planned to host agricultural field days with farm tours displaying exceptional best management practices (BMPs). However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the scope of the project was changed, and the district opted to create a series of educational videos highlighting agricultural BMPs.
CCCD filmed and edited an educational video series, entitled, “The Basics of Agricultural Conservation: In the Field and Around the Barn” discusses barnyard, cropland, pasture, and operational best management practices. This video series features the practices implemented at Walmoore Holsteins and includes video footage of daily operations and an interview with the landowner/operator.

Cumberland County’s cover crop program model for improving soil health and farm runoff 

The Cumberland County Conservation District’s (CCCD) successful cover crops program is 15 years old and provides funding and technical assistance for the planting of cover crops to more than 65 county farmers. To date, CCCD has helped farmers plant 8,500 acres of cover crops and estimates there may be at least that many more that are not enlisted in its program. This year was the largest signup with the greatest number of farmers planting cover crops and other county partners have reached out to CCCD for tips on how to start their own cover crop incentive programs. Cover crops reduce erosion and polluted runoff, suppress weeds and improving soil health. To learn more about the program, contact Charles Heberlig at cheberlig@ccpa.net

Lancaster County holds full-day stormwater forum

The Lancaster Clean Water Partners' Stormwater Action Team recently held its third annual Municipal Stormwater Forum, affectionately known as the MS4orum. The full-day event featured 12 presentations tailored specifically to help municipalities address MS4 requirements and meet water quality improvement goals. "There was a great energy in the room with people excited to be back together in person," says Kristen Koch, co-chair for the Stormwater Action Team. A highlight of the day was getting to explore a newly completed stream restoration project. Attendees heard from the engineer, contractor, and borough manager. It demonstrated how important intentional collaboration is to successfully implement a clean water project.  

Lebanon County Conservation District holds legislative roundtable 

Lebanon County Conservation District staff met with local legislators on June 3 to discuss conservation programs in Lebanon County, including agricultural land preservation, erosion and sedimentation control, Envirothon, mosquito-borne disease control, and agricultural programs. Conservation district funding, urban/suburban sprawl in the county, and the Countywide Action Plan (CAP) were also discussed.

Mifflin County Riparian Ranger Program 

The Mifflin County Riparian Rangers program is looking for volunteers to help take care of tree plantings that were recently completed. The program aims to ensure a higher tree survival rate by training volunteers to visit tree plantings monthly to straighten stakes, fix and remove tree shelters, remove bird nets, monitor and remove invasive species, and help with replanting trees that die. Sign up for more information and to register for training kick-off on July 13. The Riparian Rangers Program is run by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and will be coordinated locally by the Mifflin County Conservation District. 

York County Better Farms, Cleaner Water Ag Field Day

The York County Better Farms, Cleaner Water Ag Field Day event will be held July 28 at the Izaak Walton League York Chapter #67, 7131 Ironstone Hill Road, Dallastown. Everyone is invited to attend, especially those who farm and those who own a farm. Experts will discuss cover crops and no-till, how to use tech tools to improve profits, and getting the most out of pastures. Information about tax credit programs, grants, and loan opportunities that can assist farmers with ag BMP implementation will also be provided. A farm tour is also included. The event and lunch are free. Register by July 15th at Better Farms, Cleaner Water, by email LGerner@YCPC.org or by phone at 717-771-9870, ext. 1755. The Field Day is hosted by the Ag Field Day Planning Committee, 4R Alliance, and the York County Planning Commission, with funding through a York County Community Foundation grant.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101