The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection projects that every county in the state will continue to get warmer and wetter, with an average annual rainfall increase of eight percent, putting the health of the watershed at risk.
In the face of those daunting projections, the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund is the catalyst for change, combining the generous funding of its sponsors with the innovation of local organizations and municipalities who are working to mitigate the impact of a changing environment on our landscape and drinking water.
As one of the founding partners of the fund, Constellation has been a guiding force in the process. “The Limerick Clean Energy Center is a 24/7 energy producer that is committed to provide reliable, carbon-free energy to move us all toward a safer, more sustainable future,” said Mike Gillin, Constellations Limerick Site Vice President. “We are proud to continue our partnership with Schuylkill River Greenways to drive local environmental progress to make the strongest possible impact, today and tomorrow.”
The Schuylkill Action Network, along with Schuylkill River Greenways, held its annual Project Tour on Friday, not only to showcase previous grant winners, but also to announce the 2023 projects that have been selected.
This year’s six grantees will share over $350,000 in awards for their projects, the funds for which are donated by local companies and individuals who are invested in the health of our watershed.
“At Pennsylvania American Water, our commitment to the environment extends beyond the quality of our water into the heart of who we are – your local water company,” said Kristi English, Source Water Protection State Lead. “We are stewards of the communities we serve and are proud to support the Schuylkill River Greenways Restoration Fund and the important work they do to protect our environment.”
Created in 2006, the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund provides grants to government agencies and non-profit organizations for projects that improve the quality of water in the watershed. The goal of the Restoration Fund is to support projects in the Schuylkill River Watershed that are consistent with renewal and water management goals for the span of the river basin.
“The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has been a proud contributor to the SRRF since the beginning. Through the incredible partnership and project coordination opportunities facilitated by the SRRF, PWD is able to protect and improve the quality of the Schuylkill River both upstream of and within the city to enhance drinking water, ecology, and recreation” shared Will Whalon, Watershed Protection Program staff scientist at PWD.
The grants focus on three major sources of pollution: stormwater runoff, agricultural pollution, and drainage from abandoned mines. Since its inception, the fund has distributed nearly $5 million for over one hundred projects that protect and restore the Schuylkill River in perpetuity.
Marc Lucca, Aqua Pennsylvania President emphasized the importance of the fund, “Aqua Pennsylvania has been a proud funder of the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund since 2012. Together with our partners, we are safeguarding our river for future generations. A clean and healthy watershed benefits the environment and all who enjoy the river’s beauty.”
Following the tour, lunch was served to the group at Earl Township Park while the winners of the Schulkill River Restoration Fund were announced. The following projects will be funded in Berks County:
Berks County Conservation District will receive a $45,000 grant for the Cold Run Project in Geigertown, PA. The primary objective of the project is to reduce sediment and nutrient pollutant runoff to Cold Run, a tributary to Hay Creek in the Village of Geirgertown. The project will also reduce pollutant loads to the drinking water source for the community of Birdsboro.
The Berks County Conservation District and partners will achieve these objectives by implementing a comprehensive conservation plan on a 35-head sheep operation. Livestock access to Cold Run, smaller tributaries, and wetlands will be restricted with streambank fencing and cropland converted into new pasture paddocks. A grazing plan will be implemented that prioritizes rotational grazing and off-stream watering facilities.
Severely eroded streambanks on Cold Run will be stabilized through the assistance of the PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) funding. Old pastures along the stream corridor will be converted into ~6 acres of riparian forest buffer.
Berks Nature will receive a $75,000 grant for for a project on Burkholder Farm in Kutztown. The project will install Agriculture BMPs on the Leon Burkholder family steer and crop operation in the limestone geology of the Saucony Creek for positive contribution to the Saucony marsh and Kutztown Borough water supply and the Maiden Creek and City of Reading water supply, Lake Ontelaunee. BMP’s will include a roofed heavy use area, dry manure storage, and stormwater improvements.
Berks Nature will also receive a $95,000 grant for a project on the Phillips Farm in Lenhartsville. This project will also install Agriculture BMPs on the Phillips Family steer operation in the headwaters of an unnamed tributary to the Maiden Creek and Lake Ontelaunee, the drinking water supply for the City of Reading in conjunction with an existing NRCS contract and engineered design. BMP’s will include a roofed heavy use area, stormwater controls an improved 35’ riparian buffer.
Perkiomen Valley Trout Unlimited is receiving a grant of $45,000 for a project on the Longacre Farm in Barto. The Longacre Farm Phase 2 West Branch Perkiomen Creek project objective is to continue stream restoration and habitat improvement work along approximately 1200-feet of the stream. Work will concentrate efforts upstream of similar work successfully completed by PVTU on the property in September 2021.
The proposed stream design has identified fifteen specific locations which will require a variety of stream bank stabilization structures and habitat improvements that will reduce stream bank erosion and sedimentation, improve water quality, improve aquatic habitat, and greatly enhance protection of the stream from future erosion, resulting sedimentation, and habitat loss.