AmericanFarm.com

CBF calls for five Pa. counties to jumpstart cleanup

By DOROTHY NOBLE
AFP correspondent

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Sept. 20, 2016) — The non-profit Chesapeake Bay Foundation has prioritized five counties in Pennsylvania for Bay cleanup efforts.
Focusing on the counties of Lancaster, York, Franklin, Cumberland and Adams for reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment would be the most efficient and cost effective way for Pennsylvania to meet its goals, CBF president Will Baker says.
Baker called for an initial immediate investment of $20 million from the USDA conservation funds to “jumpstart” the cleanup efforts.
Baker noted that the $20 million is part of the Farm Bill and is earmarked for conservation.
CBF also recognized that state and county governments must provide additional funding, plus outreach and technical assistance.
“While other Bay states are making progress in achieving their Clean Water Blueprint reduction goals, Pennsylvania is far behind in meeting its commitments,” Baker noted.
In a media conference call on Sept. 13, Baker also pointed out that Pennsylvania officials recognize that the state is not on track to meet its 2017 interim milestones in the Clean Water Blueprint.
The milestones set for all the states in the Bay watershed in the Clean Water Blueprint for the total maximum daily loads of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reductions specify restoration by 2025.
“Pennsylvania has identified more than 1,400 miles of rivers and streams in these five priority counties as being damaged by agricultural pollution,” CBF Pennsylvania executive director Harry Campbell said.
“While efforts need to continue in all Pennsylvania watershed counties, by prioritizing new resources in these five counties the Commonwealth can greatly accelerate its restoration efforts,” Campbell continued.
In March, Penn State and diverse agriculture stakeholders agreed that resources should be targeted to the high priority areas and the agriculture practices with the most potential to reduce pollution.
CBF’s initiative then “put big data to work,” Baker said. Using data from the U.S. Geological Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, they identified the prioritized watersheds.
CBF’s analysis projects that reducing nitrogen on those five counties would achieve more than half of the 2025 reduction goal for the entire state of Pennsylvania.
In addition, those practices that reduce nitrogen such as streamside buffers also reduce phosphorus and sediment.
The conservation efforts would also provide jobs and improve the economies for the counties as well as the benefits of a restored Chesapeake Bay.
During the conference call, Chris Thompson, of the Lancaster Conservation District, pointed out that all Pennsylvania counties have a backlog for conservation assistance, including erosion sediment and manure management plans.
Thompson said that the farmers care about the land and the environment, but dairy farmers in particular need the extra funds because of the historically low milk prices.