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ISC eyes cleanup for bay

Plan needed to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus in local streams

The Blair County Conservation District has begun work on a “countywide action plan” for reducing the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into local streams — and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay.

The action plans are part of a watershedwide decades-long effort to clean up the bay, according to Conservation District Manager Donna Fisher, who spoke to the Intergovernmental Stormwater Committee on Thursday.

As the organization responsible for cleaning up stormwater effluent in the urbanized areas of the county, the ISC will be a major stakeholder in developing the countywide plan, along with farmers and sewer system operators, Fisher said.

The plan will lay out projects to help the state comply with a pollutant “diet” previously handed down from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, according to Fisher.

The hope is that by giving local people control of how they reduce pollution in their respective areas, there will be more “buy-in,” better implementation of necessary practices and better cost-sharing arrangements, according to Fisher.

The better the plans and the better the compliance with them, the less likely the EPA will intervene with tighter regulations for construction sites, farming practices and sewer plant operations, Fisher said.

In addition to representatives from the ISC and the Conservation District, Fisher is hoping for participation from local elected officials, municipal planning commissions, farmers’ organizations, citizens associations, forestry experts and advocacy groups for fishing and waterway cleanups.

“We’ll try to get everybody’s input to put together a good plan,” Fisher said.

The plan is likely to rely on computer modeling to design projects based on predicted benefits, according to Fisher.

It’s likely that public meetings on plan development will begin in early 2021, she said.

“These plans will outline how each county’s share of the state’s 2025 pollution reduction goals will be met,” stated the DEP website.

Blair County is in a “Tier 3” group of counties, among the 43 counties in Pennsylvania that are in the Chesapeake watershed.

The four Tier 1 counties, those contributing the most pollution — and all closer to the Chesapeake — are in the “implementation” phase of their action plan efforts, according to the website.

The four Tier 2 counties, including Bedford and Centre, are in the “planning” phase.

The Tier 3 and Tier 4 counties are in the preparation phase.

The countywide plans don’t establish new regulatory requirements, but simply help counties help the state achieve already-established goals, according to the website.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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