$28 Million in New Funding Can Jumpstart PA's Clean Water Efforts
The commitment of $28.7 million in new federal and state funding is a welcome down payment for what needs to be meaningful progress in Pennsylvania's pollution-reduction efforts, which have not been on pace to meet the Commonwealth's Clean Water Blueprint goals.
The additional funding, announced at the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council, is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), committing almost $13 million; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, adding nearly $12 million; and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), committing about $4 million.
"What remains clear is that Pennsylvania has been, and continues to make strides toward protecting and improving local water quality, but we know that we have additional work to do to make sure every producer is operating in a way that minimizes impacts to local water quality, and ultimately to the Bay," Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said the day the new funding was announced.
Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania are damaged by pollution, and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its Clean Water Blueprint goals. The Clean Water Blueprint requires that 60 percent of pollution-reduction practices be in place by 2017, and 100 percent in place by 2025. The Commonwealth has acknowledged that it will not meet the 2017 goal.
Addressing Pennsylvania's strategy for the new funding, Gov. Wolf added that, "We must continue to develop and deploy effective targeting in high-priority areas, support community-based and locally-led approaches to conservation, collaboratively seek new funding opportunities, and engage all stakeholders—federal, state, local, public, private, non-profit—in our approach to local water quality."
CBF analyzed federal agency data and called for additional funding in advance of the council meeting. CBF stressed that new investments, committed to people, places, and practices in five priority counties in south-central Pennsylvania, would accelerate pollution reductions from agriculture and jumpstart the Commonwealth's lagging cleanup efforts.
Lancaster County is home to the most productive agricultural land in the Keystone State, but also delivers by far the most nitrogen pollution from agriculture. Also on the list of priority counties identified by CBF's analysis are York, Franklin, Cumberland, and Adams. Together, these counties contribute more than 30 million pounds of nitrogen pollution from agriculture to the Chesapeake Bay annually.
CBF's analysis found that if the five priority counties fully met their 2025 Blueprint pollution-reduction commitments, the Commonwealth would achieve about 14.1 million pounds of nitrogen pollution reduction. That is more than half of the entire state's 2025 nitrogen pollution-reduction goal.
Many farmers are willing to install conservation practices that will reduce pollution but some are turned away every year because of a lack of resources available to assist them. The additional federal and state funding will allow more farmers to plant streamside buffers, reduce runoff from barnyards, get the required management plans, and install other measures critical to the health of Pennsylvania waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Half of the freshwater that flows into the Bay comes from the Susquehanna River Basin.
Not only will the new funding reduce pollution, it will help create jobs, benefit local economies, and in many cases improve farm productivity.
While these new investments provide a boost toward getting the Commonwealth back on track to providing clean water that is the right of every Pennsylvania resident, the job is far from complete. Much work lies ahead, if we are to leave a legacy of clean rivers and streams for future generations.
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation