The Issues Facing Pennsylvania
Photo courtesy NRCS
News, stories, and features about Pennsylvania's efforts to save its rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Proposed Senate Bill 724 puts funding that is available to farmers for installing cost-effective conservation projects—such as installing cattle crossings (above), fencing cows out of streams, and planting stream buffers—at risk. Photo by Matt Kofroth.
What You Need to Know About Senate Bill 724
On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Pennsylvania's Senate Majority Policy Committee held a hearing on legislation that would make it harder for farmers to put scientifically proven conservation practices on their farms. If passed, this bill would take funding away from cost-effective agricultural conservation practices in favor of expensive, less effective, corporate-backed manure treatment technologies that address fewer pollution sources at a higher cost. It would divert funding from the state's resource-limited clean water programs, jeopardizing family farmers' ability to implement necessary water quality improvement practices on their property.
CLEAN WATER COUNTS
Is your stream clean enough for your child to play in it safely? Nearly 20,000 miles of Pennsylvania's waterways are not. Photo by Michelle Yost
To County Commissioners: Clean Water Resolutions Needed Now!
How clean is your stream? According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) most recent statewide water quality survey, it's very likely that a stream or river near you is polluted. In fact, nearly one-quarter, almost 20,000 miles, of the creeks, rivers, and lakes that we rely on for recreation, and for drinking and household uses, are polluted.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is calling on Pennsylvania officials to make clean water a priority, to commit the needed resources, and to ensure that our 83,000 miles of waterways are ALL clean.
Healthy families, strong communities, and a thriving Pennsylvania economy depend on it.
We are urging county commissioners to pass Clean Water Counts resolutions that call on the Commonwealth to prioritize funding and increase investments for clean water, and your help is needed.
Please show your support for clean water by signing the Clean Water Counts online petition, today!
Sign The Petition Today!
About CBF's Pennsylvania Watershed Restoration Program
Farm before restoration. Livestock have direct access to stream.
Farm restoration with forested buffer planted and livestock fencing installed.
Photos by CBF Staff
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) works with farmers and landowners throughout the region to improve the health of Pennsylvania's rivers and streams. Our staff of restoration specialists provide one-on-one technical assistance in the implementation of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) that improve farm sustainability and significantly reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution to local waterways.
CBF's approach to restoration integrates multiple programs, funding sources, and BMPs into a whole-farm approach. Our creative and cost-effective methods improve water quality, and solve on-farm production, management, and waste problems.
Our restoration team recognizes the need to balance economic viability with environmental sustainability, and that each farm and situation is unique. Working with farmers and partners like the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, county conservation districts, and private consultants, our team provides the right technical knowledge and assistance to addresses natural resource concerns while improving farm management.
The end result is cleaner waters and more profitable, sustainable, and environmentally responsible farms.
Public and private funds are strategically utilized to restore watersheds in areas with high concentrations of polluted runoff from agricultural activities. Some of the BMPs include: conservation and nutrient management plans, forested riparian buffers, streambank fencing, barnyard improvements, and field practices such as rotational grazing and no-till. Many of these practices result in reduced soil erosion, improved soil health, and healthier streams.
Sign The Petition Today!
What role do farms and agricultural production play in the health of our waters? Learn more
Smallmouth bass and other marine denizens depend on the health of our waters. Learn more
When the watershed's land summers from pollution and poor management so, too, does the water. Learn how
Natural Gas Drilling
Safeguarding our waters from natural gas drilling contamination is imperative. Learn why
Sewage & Septic Systems
Upgrading wastewater treatment is key to cleaning up the Bay. Learn more
Did you know that stormwater runoff is the fastest growing source of Bay pollution? Learn more
Find out what other issues are affecting the health of the Bay. >>
Fishing for smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River. Photo by Tom Pelton/CBF Staff
CBF to PA DEP: "Add the Susquehanna River to Impaired Waters List"
One of the longest rivers in America, the Susquehanna River provides over half of the freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay, drinking water to millions of people, countless recreational opportunities, and scenic value. For these and many other reasons, the river is a valued natural and economic resource to this region. But the Mighty Susquehanna and her keystone fishery, the smallmouth bass, need help. Recent declines in the smallmouth bass health and population, along with water quality data suggesting poor conditions at key locations and at key times of the year, indicate the river fails to meet some of the basic requirements of the Clean Water Act.
In 2011, Pennsylvania's top fisheries scientists at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) sounded the alarm for urgent state action to address widespread disease and death among smallmouth bass in the lower Susquehanna River, the largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.
CBF joined the Commission—along with the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, and Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future—in a petition to urge the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to prioritize the health of the Susquehanna and commit to a sound plan to help restore it.
The petition urged DEP to list a 98-mile stretch of the river as an impaired water body on the federal 303(d) Impaired Waters list. Data included in the petition supports the request and warrants including the stretch from Sunbury to the Maryland state line.
"In the autumn of 2011… outbreaks were so severe that approximately 40 percent of the adult smallmouth bass surveyed had extensive lesions and open sores," stated a recent letter from the Commission to DEP. Similar outbreaks of disease in adults and death of young smallmouth bass in the lower Susquehanna River have occurred in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, as well as 2011. These specific conditions have been found nowhere else in Pennsylvania but in this 98-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River.
The group contends that the river fails to meet some of the basic requirements of the Clean Water Act.
DEP disagreed denied the petition. In January 2013, DEP excluded the river from its 2012 Impaired Waters List and has continued to do so every year since.
The Importance of Being Declared "Impaired"
Of Pennsylvania's 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and small creeks, over 18,000 miles are currently on the impaired list. Being included on the list ensures that each of these waterways will eventually have a recovery plan. By listing this section of the river, we ensure that a recovery plan will be developed for the lower Susquehanna.
Based on the studies of the Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, and others, and concerns about a collapse of this economically important fishery ($2.7 million in a 2007 study), the Commission took what steps it could to protect the smallmouth bass. It imposed catch-and-immediate release requirements and closed seasons for smallmouth bass during the spring spawning period.
These actions may help in the short-term, but to return long-term health and sustainability to the fishery, the state must commit to finding the answers and developing a plan to fix the problems.
Designating the river as an impaired waterway helps assure this occurs.
CBF will continue to urge reconsideration of our petition by DEP and EPA, who ultimately must approve DEP's list.
For the millions who depend on the river, the millions of dollars made from her bounty, and for generations to come—there is no better time to act on behalf of the Susquehanna River and clean water.