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CBF-PA Submits Detailed Comments On DEP Chesapeake Bay Watershed Plan

In its official comments this week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said the Watershed Implementation Plan submitted by the Department of Environmental Protection to meet federal Clean Water Act mandates to cleanup the Chesapeake Bay "demonstrates an inability to deliver on core programmatic items that are critical to meeting our water quality goals."

            Matthew Ehrhart, Pennsylvania Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released this statement on Pennsylvania's Plan--
            “The purpose of the WIP is to detail how the Commonwealth intends to meet pollution-reduction goals and improve water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. The goal was not only to achieve the right numbers for pollution reduction, but also, and maybe more importantly, to provide reasonable assurance that the job will get done. CBF agrees with EPA that this draft plan fell short on both counts.
            “Pennsylvania has the opportunity to create a viable plan for clean water that is tailored to its needs and creates jobs.
            “DEP’s draft plan does not clearly articulate the strategy, programs, resources, and timing to be employed to meet the obligations of the TMDL and provide reasonable assurance that our goals will be met. Our conclusion is that the draft WIP is largely a summary of the programs and initiatives that already exist , and that improvements must focus on commitments of additional resources, staffing and prioritization to ensure that the pollution reduction goals are met.
            “CBF looks to the Commonwealth to provide specific steps to meet the TMDL, and to establish expectation, outreach, implementation, and compliance mechanisms for all sectors to effectively reduce pollution.
            "We hope (DEP's revised Plan) will chart a credible course toward clean water for Pennsylvania's rivers and streams, as well as the Chesapeake Bay."
            The Department of Environmental Protection must submit a revised WIP Plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by November 28.
            In its written comments, CBF said, "While  Pennsylvania  has  made  significant  progress  on  some  specific  BMPs,  the   Commonwealth  has  demonstrated  an  inability  to  deliver  on  core  programmatic   items  that  are  critical  to  meeting  our  water  quality  goals.  This  WIP  is  Pennsylvania's final opportunity to create a strategy for implement the TMDL that  is  built  by Pennsylvanians,  for  Pennsylvania,  and  utilizes  the  details  and   efficiencies  that  are  specific  to  the  Commonwealth.  
            "CBF  urges  you  to  consider  the   following  recommendations  to  construct  a  credible  strategy  to  accomplish  the   necessary  reductions.  Otherwise,  the  Federal  Government  will  use  its  Clean  Water   Act  authorities  to  attempt  to  accomplish  those  reductions  in  Pennsylvania.  The   outcomes  of  that  approach  will  be  for  more  difficult  and  less  efficient  for  the   Commonwealth  and  its  citizens."
            The CBF comments mirror, in part, a review done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier in the year which said Pennsylvania's plan had "serious deficiencies."
            The comments make 25 specific recommendations for strengthening the WIP in the areas of agriculture, urban/suburban stormwater management, resource extraction and onsite wastewater disposal.

            CBF said Pennsylvania agencies and conservation districts are woefully understaffed to provide the help 2,000 livestock operations and 16,000 farms need to meet their nutrient management requirements.  Over 100 new staff are needed to help farmers.

            "A  significant  challenge  not  resolved  in  the  draft  WIP  is  how  PA  will  commit  to  a   level  of  resources,  particularly  for  agricultural  financial  assistance,  that  is  on  par   with  the  need.  While  the  federal  government  has  increased  conservation  funding   through  Farm  Bill  programs,  farmer  demand  for  financial  assistance  consistently   and  substantially  exceeds  available  funding.
            "While  the  state  faces  historic   financial  constraints,  this  does  not  relieve  the  state  of  its  obligations  under  the   Clean  Water  Act.  Pennsylvania  policymakers  did  not  make  sufficient  investments   in  agricultural  nonpoint  source  programs  during  times  of  surplus;  these  were   legislative  and  executive  choices  that  make  the  current  situation  all  the  more   difficult.  The  WIP  must  describe  how  this  historic  funding  gap  that  continues  to   this  day  will  be  corrected."

            The comments specifically recommend restoring funding to the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Tax Credit Program to help farmers achieve their conservation goals.

            The PA Farm Bureau has also stressed the need to provide more funding to improve farm conservation programs.
            A complete copy of the CBF comments is available online.
            NewsClips: Grants Awarded To Conserve Chesapeake Bay
                                Bethlehem Considers Streambank Grass Buffers
                                Environmental Groups Receive Grants To Improve Watersheds
                                PACD Watershed Education Experience Grants Due Nov. 15
                                Op-Ed: Harsh Reality Of Meeting Chesapeake Bay Pollution Diet
                                Editorial: EPA Unrealistic About Chesapeake Bay Clean Up
                                Editorial: State At Crossroads For Clean, Pure Water
                                Board Approves Water Line Connection Of Dimock Homes
                                PennVEST Uses Public Money For Dimock Waterline
                                State OKs $11.6 Million For Water Line In Dimock
                                Agency Votes To Aid Owners Of Contaminated Wells In Dimock
                                Funding For Scranton About $3 Million Less Than Sought
                                DuBois Forms Committee To Protect City's Watershed


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