Lehigh County Farmer Recognized For Commitment To Water Quality In Delaware

Joel Loch, a four-generation dairy farmer in Weisenberg Township, Lehigh County, Tuesday was recognized for receiving a 2015 Clean Water Farm award from the PA Association of Conservation Districts in July.

(Photo: Joel and Brenda Loch.)

Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission Executive Director Karl Brown and Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Water Management Kelly Heffner presented him with the award.

They then toured the operation, viewing the best management practices firsthand.

“Improvements to Pennsylvania’s water quality start at the farm level with forward-thinking producers like Joel,” said Brown. “This is the ideal success story – Joel approached his county conservation district to voluntarily implement cost-effective and simple best management practices to the creek on his property that will improve water quality downstream.”

Loch operates a 65-cow dairy and 300-bird poultry farm with nearly 138 acres of cropland and nearly 20 acres of pasture in the Delaware River Watershed. The farm is also in Pennsylvania’s farmland preservation program.

Mill Creek, a trout-stocked and migratory fishery, passes through Loch’s farm. The waterway is a tributary in the Maiden Creek watershed, which supplies water to the City of Reading.

With the assistance of the Lehigh County Conservation District, most of the farm’s improvements were developed to minimize soil erosion and runoff and animal access to the stream.

Best management practices include a water control structure with a stormwater basin, concrete drop box and underground outlets on the pasture; an animal walkway; stabilized stream crossings and stream bank fencing; a grassed waterway; and an animal heavy use area.

The improvements have reduced sedimentation into the stream, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus – two nutrients that can promote the growth of algae that can use up the oxygen in a waterway, killing fish and upsetting its ecosystem.

The improvements to the creek include cooler water temperatures and higher visibility that improve habitat for fish and other wildlife.

“Mr. Loch is doing more than just improving his farm – he’s improving local water quality, both now and for future generations,” said Heffner. “Safeguarding the health of our land and waterways takes coordination from everyone, from landowners to nonprofits and governments to citizens. We thank Joel for his commitment to his farm, his family and our state.”

The departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection have restarted the state’s commitment to meeting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan agreement, which would reduce the total maximum daily load of nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay.

The agreement calls for agriculture to contribute three-quarters of the reductions largely through near-stream practices such as those implemented on the Loch farm.

While the Loch farm is in the Delaware River watershed, improvements to all of Pennsylvania’s waterways are essential for the health of the state’s ecosystem.

Click Here to see the two other 2015 Clean Water Farm Award winners.

For more information, visit Agriculture’s State Conservation Commission webpage.


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