The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has awarded approximately $1 million in grants to support 26 counties in the upper half of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed in developing Countywide Action Plans to improve local water quality.
The counties join eight others in the lower half of the watershed who developed Countywide Action Plans in 2019 and 2020. All 34 counties that were asked to create and carry out plans to reduce local nutrient and sediment pollution as part of the state Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan have now signed on.
“This is an exciting first in Pennsylvania’s longtime work to improve the health of the watershed,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
“Having all counties on board demonstrates a new level of community commitment to improving local waters and protecting the benefits they bring to our lives. It also reflects the effectiveness of new partnerships by state agencies and the agriculture, forestry, wastewater, and business sectors to support this local work. DEP will do everything we can to sustain this action for healthy waters.”
DEP awarded $1 million in grants from the Environmental Stewardship Fund to support local development of planning teams and Countywide Action Plans of best management projects to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution.
These pollutants are building up in streams, rivers, and lakes as a result of human activities such as applying fertilizers, plowing and tilling agricultural fields, and stripping away trees and vegetation, increasing streambank erosion.
To make the most of limited funding, the 26 counties were formed into groups to develop 10 Countywide Action Plans. Each group applied for and was approved for up to $100,000 in grant funding. Out of 10 groups, Chester, Berks, and Schuylkill counties will be the first to receive funding.
The DEP grants are part of multiyear agreements to support counties’ participation in Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan to meet federal obligations to improve the health of the bay.
The state plan takes a Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities approach, giving county teams control of local water quality improvement, while providing as much data, technical assistance, funding, and other support as possible.
It encourages and equips counties to develop strategies and determine project sites and types that will benefit their communities and farmers, municipalities, businesses, and other landowners while restoring the environment.
Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, and York counties completed their Countywide Action Plans in 2019 and began to enlist partners, pursue funding sources, and break ground on projects in 2020. Bedford, Centre, Cumberland, and Lebanon counties submitted their draft plans to DEP in December and are in the process of finalizing them.
All or part of 43 Pennsylvania counties are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The remaining nine counties have low levels of nutrient and sediment pollution and are not requested to develop Countywide Action Plans.