DEP, Agriculture, DCNR Layout Their Hopes For Final Chesapeake Bay Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities Watershed Plan
On August 27, the departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources outlined their hopes for the Final Chesapeake Bay Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities Watershed Plan.
They said the final Plan is designed to promote the long-term viability of farming, outdoor recreation, and other economic sectors; protect public health and water supplies; and help communities reduce flooding by improving local water quality in the 43 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
“We’re addressing an enormous area, spanning over 15,000 miles of impaired streams, 33,000 farms, and 350 municipalities. But success lies at the community level, with projects put in place at backyards, farms, towns, and businesses to reduce pollutants in local streams and rivers,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “More local partners than ever before are committed to protecting these invaluable local natural resources. It’s crucial that their hard work receive significant support. Our plan presents a framework and actions for that support.”
Called “Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities,” the plan is Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in local streams and rivers mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Over 1,000 Pennsylvanians—farmers, foresters, academics, local municipal and community leaders, environmental advocates, and state government agencies—contributed their expertise.
A steering committee led by DEP, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) coordinated the planning process. The committee will transition into an action team to ensure implementation.
Recognizing the need for new, targeted funding, Gov. Wolf proposed, and the General Assembly passed, the 2019 Pennsylvania Farm Bill. This historic $23.1 million investment includes [$6 million] in new and expanded conservation funding, with priority to be given to counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
“We want Pennsylvania’s farmers to have every opportunity to hold up their end of this plan,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “They’ll able to take advantage of grants to assist with implementing best management practices and meet goals through the PA Farm Bill’s Conservation Excellence Grant Program. We’re all doing our part to be stewards of the land that provides for Pennsylvania and beyond.”
In addition, “Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities’ plans to take full advantage of funding available from the proposed Restore Pennsylvania infrastructure initiative, which has broad bipartisan support in the legislature and is supported by 69 percent of Pennsylvanians.
[Note: The Plan projects the need for $324 million in additional funding in each of the next 6 or more years to implement the recommendations made in the Plan.]
“Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities” provides planning tools, local data, and technical assistance to equip countywide action teams to develop pollutant-reduction strategies that best serve their local needs.
Development of a new block grant approach will make it easier to access funding and enable communities to achieve greater pollutant reduction through multiple adjacent stream projects.
The plan specifies state actions in air quality, agriculture, brownfield redevelopment, forestry, mining, oil and gas operations, stormwater, and wastewater that will reduce pollutants.
“When we look at solutions for some of our conservation challenges, such as managing stormwater from very heavy rain events that transfers pollution from land to water, having clean drinking water, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife, it turns out that trees and forests play a big role,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We are committed to working with many partners to meet all of the goals established in the plan, especially to plant trees along streams and in communities across Pennsylvania.”
“Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities” outlines the lion’s share of pollutant reductions that Pennsylvania is required to achieve by 2025. An aggressive adaptive management approach, with six-month progress reviews, will ensure additional actions toward further reductions.
“Pennsylvania is committed to having projects and practices in place by 2025 to attain our goals and meet our requirements in full,” said Secretary McDonnell. “There’s been strong interest in the draft planning process over the past two years. We welcome even more constructive engagement as community efforts now move forward across the watershed.”
DEP submitted the final Plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its review on August 23.
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[Posted: August 27, 2019]
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