DEP awards $12M to support Counties’ progress in restoring Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has awarded $12.2 million in 2023 Countywide Action Plan (CAP) Implementation Grants to county teams across Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to support their progress in reducing nutrient and sediment pollution to restore the health of local streams, rivers, and lakes.

“In every county, local leaders and partners in agriculture, conservation, and other areas are carrying out measures they’ve determined will have the biggest impact in reducing pollution and bringing the benefits of a healthy watershed to their communities,” said DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh.

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“DEP is committed to doing everything it can to support this unprecedented grassroots action and progress. The 2023 CAP Implementation funding will enable teams to build on their previous years’ successes and launch new projects, accelerating Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan.”

Like the other jurisdictions in the watershed — New York, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia — Pennsylvania is mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lower its nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment pollution levels by 2025. Pennsylvania is required to reduce nitrogen by 32.5 million pounds and phosphorus by 850,000 pounds.

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Under the Wolf Administration, Pennsylvania has made unprecedented progress, lowering nitrogen by more than 9 million pounds and phosphorus by 300,000 pounds.

The 2023 CAP Implementation Grants include $9.3 million from the state Environmental Stewardship Fund and $2.9 million from EPA.

About $1.6 million of the EPA funding is the first installment of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds coming to DEP for the watershed. As EPA announced in May, Pennsylvania is slated to receive $5.6 million annually over five years in IIJA funding for projects in the watershed, with a focus on the southern section, where nutrient and sediment pollution levels are higher. This first IIJA funding is targeted to Franklin, Lancaster, and York counties.

In Berks County, 2023 CAP Implementation Grants were awarded to Berks County Conservation District: $104,511.

Nutrient pollution and eroded sediment enter streams, rivers, and lakes from wastewater treatment and a range of human activities on land, including using too much fertilizer, plowing and tilling farm fields, stripping away trees and vegetation, and expanding concrete and paved surfaces.

Along with state and sector efforts, CAPs are a key component of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan to reduce this pollution. All 34 counties that were asked to develop a CAP have done so, and partners have launched a range of projects.

The Phase 3 WIP takes a Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities approach, inviting county teams to take control of local water quality improvement, with state and other partners 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.

All or part of 43 counties are in Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The area spans half the state and includes over 12,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers.

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