Clean water plan needs your voice

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says the latest clean water blueprint is the “best and perhaps the last chance to restore water quality” to the bay.

After decades of volunteer efforts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 mandated D.C. and the five states in the watershed to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reaching the Bay.

Pennsylvania is particularly targeted, largely because the Susquehanna River contributes half of the Bay’s water.

The blueprint was developed to achieve reductions by 2025. The final planning stage, the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan, uses a more local, bottoms-up approach for new and additional actions in the agriculture, forestry, stormwater and wastewater sectors.

Consequently, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environment Protection used a network of local, state government, and agricultural leaders in developing the Phase 3 WIP.

DEP is requesting comments on the Phase 3 WIP. Comments can be submitted at www.ahs.dep .gov/eComment/ or via email to ecomment/pa.gov by Friday.

Because of the magnitude of the actions necessary to achieve the pollution reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay, and because these actions will clean our local streams and rivers as well, Mirror readers should be aware of WIP 3 and contribute comments.

Although there has been significant progress, the commonwealth did not reach its pollution reduction goals in Phase 1 or 2. Almost a quarter of the state’s 49 thousand miles of watershed streams remain polluted.

But Pennsylvania can boast of the Eastern hellbender — our official amphibian. This rather ugly salamander that survives only in clean water had been decimated due to pollution but now thrives in more of our streams.

EPA has stated it may increase enforcement if Pennsylvania does not meet its goals. This could include more strict standards and reductions, plus redirection of grant funding. The 2025 goal reduces nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment at a cost estimated at $485 million per year. But worse, the current investment is only about $229 million per year.

Agriculture is slated for the largest WIP 3 reductions. The stormwater sector is also targeted, but to a lesser extent. Blair and our surrounding counties are among the 43 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Some community activity has been underway but likely much more will be essential to achieve goals. The State Conservation Commission, through the local conservation districts, and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau have held informational meetings and focus groups.

Several local municipalities have collaborated to facilitate MS4 permits. The CPF recently presented ideas to the Blair Garden Club, including their 10 million tree project, and directed parties to their site for more cost-effective strategies. CBF also encourages the public to urge their legislators to take action.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding recently pointed to how the conservation efforts provided by REAP have kept nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from our waterways. He noted that the PA Farm Bill would add $3 million to that tax credit program.

The bill also re-establishes the Agri-Link Program that would buy down the interest loan rate for practices such as manure storage. Redding reported that the Conservation Excellence Grant would provide $2.5 million financial and technical assistance to farmers for plan development and implementation of best management practices.

Also, Redding encouraged his readers to visit www.dep.pa.gov and search “WIP3” and comment on the plan.

Please be aware of the significance of WIP 3 for our agricultural industries and our water quality. Comment to DEP by June 7.

Writer-researcher Dorothy Noble has reported on each WIP to Delmarva Farmer, Farming and Growing magazines. She resides in Hollidaysburg.

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