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Over 200 Attend Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan Listening Session

More than 200 Pennsylvanians representing local governments, the farming community, and other stakeholders gathered Monday to share ideas for a plan to best achieve federally mandated water pollution reductions in the state’s 43 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and improve the environment and economy for all.

The departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, and Conservation and Natural Resources are partnering in developing the Phase III Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.

“Clean water is essential to Pennsylvanians’ quality of life,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We want vital communities. We need healthy farms. We need economic development, jobs, and thriving businesses. All of this depends on clean water sources.”

To succeed, the plan must be locally implementable, said McDonnell, accounting for economic realities as well as environmental benefits of clean local waters. This makes on-the-ground committed action essential.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding noted that “the agricultural sector accounts for the lion’s share of the clean water challenge. The plan developed from today’s listening session must recognize the co-equal goals of improving water quality while preserving healthy and viable farms.”

“We know that many farmers have been voluntarily implementing best management practices on their own sites,” Redding noted, citing positive success stories, such as the best management practices some farmers have initiated on their own. “The 2016 survey tracked and quantified impressive on-farm measures taken at the farmers’ own expense,” he added.

DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn emphasized the importance of connecting more Pennsylvanians to their local streams, rivers, and lakes to help them understand the impact land use has on water. Having trees and other vegetation on a river bank, for example, plays a key role in keeping sediment out of the water.

“When land is healthy, water is healthy,” Dunn said, noting that DCNR is working on developing public outreach in this area.

The discussions formed the bulk of a daylong public meeting at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill hosted by the steering committee leading development of Phase III of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.

Participants represented township, city, and county governments; the agriculture community; conservation districts; river basin commissions; watershed associations; conservancies; businesses; colleges; and many other entities.

In breakout groups, they discussed initiatives they believe are needed in agriculture, forestry, funding, local planning, stormwater, and wastewater to improve the health of local streams, rivers, and lakes.

For anyone who couldn’t attend in person, a public online comment period is open through July 7 on DEP eComments.

Pennsylvania is mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment levels in waters in its Bay watershed counties by 2025. The Commonwealth has fallen considerably short of its Phase 1 goal, set in 2010, and Phase 2 goal, set in 2012.

While Pennsylvania has made significant progress toward meeting the EPA targets, particularly since launch of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Strategy, considerable work remains to be done.

The event was scheduled to coincide with the second annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, June 3-10, instituted by the Chesapeake Bay Program.

For more information and other upcoming events visit DEP’s Phase III Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan webpage.


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[Poste: June 6, 2017]


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