Photo courtesy NRCS
About CBF's Pennsylvania Office
In 1986, with Pennsylvania established as a full partner in the Bay cleanup, CBF opened its Harrisburg office.
Although great strides in reducing pollution have been made over the last decades, nearly one-quarter of Pennsylvania's rivers and streams currently suffer from pollution. The Susquehanna River, the largest source of fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay, is also the largest source of nitrogen pollution to the Bay. Contaminated runoff from agricultural, urban, and suburban areas, sewage treatment plants, septic systems, and even air pollution foul Pennsylvania streams and remain the leading sources of Pennsylvania pollution to the Bay.
CBF's Pennsylvania office strives to reduce pollution from these sources through successful collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders—including government officials, local decision-makers, farmers, landowners, and others—to implement projects, policies, and programs that address pollution in our rivers, streams, and ultimately the Bay.
Planting trees as part of South Allison Hill neighborhood revitalization. Photo by Andrew Bliss/CBF Staff
Going Green in the Capital
With a gloried history, grand architecture,and a beautiful view of downtown, the South Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg was once a thriving community. Today, however,the community struggles with poverty and has the highest crime rates in the city.
CBF is now working with the Community Action Commission, founded in 1966 to help Pennsylvanians achieve self-sufficiency, and a team of organizations to revitalize the neighborhood—starting by planting trees.
Research has shown that in addition to the many environmental benefits that trees provide, they also have societal benefits like raising property values, and reducing rates of domestic abuse, stress, and even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children.
Although starting small, this project demonstrates the myriad of benefits of urban trees and builds partnerships that will help reduce pollution and revitalize communities in the city of Harrisburg.
CBF Announces New Pennsylvania Executive Director
(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is pleased to announce Harry Campbell as the new Executive Director for the Pennsylvania office. Having spent the past nine years as CBF's Pennsylvania scientist, Campbell is a respected resource on technical, policy, and science issues and will now direct all of CBF's policy, advocacy, and restoration efforts in Pennsylvania.
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.
Over a year ago 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.
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.
The Capital building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Photo credit Clipart.com
2013 Pennsylvania General Assembly Update
Unlike Maryland and Virginia, which have between two- and three-month annual legislative sessions, Pennsylvania's General Assembly holds two-year sessions. During the 2013-2014 session an emphasis of our policy work will be to ensure conservation funding, including funding for Growing Greener, remains intact. Additionally, we will advocate for the creation of local stormwater authorities and additional funding for stormwater management. And, we will advocate for a fertilizer bill, such as those passed in 2011 in Maryland and Virginia.
All three of these priorities are critical to Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay.
Through the Buffer Bonus program, CBF and partners work with farmers to install conservation projects, like this cattle crossing. Photo by Matt Kofroth.
Buffer Bonus Program Helps Farmers Improve Local Water Quality—and Their Bottom Line
CBF and partners work with farmers and landowners throughout the region to implement conservation projects that will improve water quality and enhance farm profitability. Much of the work focuses on farm best management practices (BMPs). Currently available in a limited number of Pennsylvania counties, CBF's Buffer Bonus program encourages farmers to couple the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) forest buffers with these kinds of on-farm improvements. For each acre of forest buffer planted, CBF offers participating farmers a "best management practice voucher" to fund conservation work.
Improvements that qualify under the Buffer Bonus program include rotational grazing practices, streambank fencing, alternative watering systems, and laneways. Other options include the installation of waste transfer lines for milk-house waste and silage leachate, stabilization of access roads, and the installation of roof gutters, to name a few.
Another goal of this program is to provide, at no cost to the farmer, a new or updated Conservation and Nutrient Management Plan. By combining this plan with an engineer's evaluation of the farm (also provided) the plans are then considered a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan or a CNMP. Having a CNMP gives farmers the opportunity to apply for federal funding to assist with larger on-farm improvements such as manure storage facilities and concrete barnyards.
Buffer Bonus Results
In Bradford County, 36 farmers have already participated in the program. In just two years, through the Buffer Bonus program, $1.6 million has been invested in best management practices that have resulted in nearly 200 completed projects. These projects also brought those farms into full compliance with state required conservation and manure management plans.
In Lancaster County, Amish and Mennonite farmers are also reducing pollution by installing conservation projects and planting streamside forested buffers. In just two years another $1.6 million investment has resulted in nearly 300 completed projects, bringing 41 farms into full compliance with state required conservation and manure management plans.
"These conservation improvements are a win-win for both the farmer and local water quality," said Jennifer Johns, CBF Buffer Specialist in Bradford County. "While each project ultimately produces different results, we find that creating healthier living conditions for the livestock through the installation of conservation practices improves herd health and the farmer's bottom line."
Students display their finds during a field experience. Photo by CBF Staff
There are Many Lessons to be Learned by Picking Up a Bottle
Students with CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program have been cleaning up streams one bottle at a time. For over 22 years the program has taught students things that anyone can do to help the environment. Students who have paddled with the program have always practiced "leave no trace" during the trips and have been encouraged to pick up trash as the group floats down various streams.
The islands on the Susquehanna River and the banks of streams always have some debris. When tropical storm Lee devastated many communities throughout the watershed even more debris was seen along the waterways. Right around the same time, CBF's Pennsylvania office had a large comingled recycling dumpster added next to its "landfill" dumpster. This has made it easy for the educators and students to bring and empty recycling and landfill buckets on their trips.
The students are encouraged daily to fill recycling tubs. Often the students go "progging" or searching for objects of interest on the islands, sharing fictional stories about how the found objects made it to their resting place. Though the amount collected is small compared with the total amount of debris, it is the process that teaches. The Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) emphasizes the many positive changes to the environment that have taken place in the last 50 years. The availability of recycling in just the last 20 years is a change that students have seen grown immensely in their own lifetimes. It is one more example of how,if we all do a little, we can achieve a lot.