What's Up in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy NRCSPhoto courtesy NRCS

News, stories, and features about Pennsylvania's efforts to save its rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Dairy farmers DeLecia and Bill Plouse planted buffer areas that reduce the amount of pollution entering the local stream by absorbing and filtering polluted runoff.  Photo by Jennifer Johns/CBF StaffDairy farmers DeLecia and Bill Plouse planted buffer areas that reduce the amount of pollution entering the local stream by absorbing and filtering polluted runoff.

Working With Farmers To Reduce Pollution

Today, the Plouse Family Farm in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, is a shining example of what CBF is doing to make sure cost doesn't stand in the way of implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. With our assistance and our partners, the Plouses have been able to implement a variety of conservation practices that have dramatically reduced pollution running off their land.

Cattle grazing at Valley Grassfed farm. Photo courtesy Valley GrassfedFunding and assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Chesapeake Bay Foundation has allowed the Senator's dream of being able to grow and sell their own beef to become a reality. Photo courtesy Valley Grassfed

Progress at Valley Grassfed Farm

"Our business, Valley Grassfed, would not be in existence if it weren't for the implementation of these practices providing for lush pastured paddocks." That's the way Jenne Senator, Owner and Operations Manager of Valley Grassfed described the many conservation measures that she and her husband, Bob, recently implemented on their farm near Spring Mills, Pennsylvania.

Brook Trout in Mill Creek. Salvelinus fontinalis. Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Photo copyright Neil Ever Osborne/iLCPThe proposed "Endangered Species Bills" will have a dramatic--and detrimental--impact on how Pennsylvania's wild trout waters are designated. Photo © Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP

Proposed Endangered Species Bills Would Threaten Native Brook Trout

House Bill 1576 and the Senate version, SB1047, collectively known as the "Endangered Species Bills," have the potential to dramatically alter state protections for rare, endangered, and threatened species and Pennsylvania's natural places. Of particular concern is the potential impact to our state fish and icon of clean water—the native brook trout.

Planting trees as part of South Allison Hill neighborhood revitalization. Photo by Andrew Bliss/CBF StaffPlanting trees as part of South Allison Hill neighborhood revitalization. Photo by Andrew Bliss/CBF Staff

Going Green in the Capital

With a gloried history, grand architecture,and a beautiful view of downtown, the South Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg was once a thriving community. Today, however,the community struggles with poverty and has the highest crime rates in the city.

CBF is now working with the Community Action Commission, founded in 1966 to help Pennsylvanians achieve self-sufficiency, and a team of organizations to revitalize the neighborhood—starting by planting trees.

Research has shown that in addition to the many environmental benefits that trees provide, they also have societal benefits like raising property values, and reducing rates of domestic abuse, stress, and even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children.

Although starting small, this project demonstrates the myriad of benefits of urban trees and builds partnerships that will help reduce pollution and revitalize communities in the city of Harrisburg.

Photo by Tom Pelton/CBF StaffFishing for smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River. Photo by Tom Pelton/CBF Staff

CBF to PA DEP: "Add the Susquehanna River to Impaired Waters List"

One of the longest rivers in America, the Susquehanna River provides over half of the freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay, drinking water to millions of people, countless recreational opportunities, and scenic value.  For these and many other reasons, the river is a valued natural and economic resource to this region.  But the Mighty Susquehanna and her keystone fishery, the smallmouth bass, need help. Recent declines in the smallmouth bass health and population, along with water quality data suggesting poor conditions at key locations and at key times of the year, indicate the river fails to meet some of the basic requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Over a year ago Pennsylvania's top fisheries scientists at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) sounded the alarm for urgent state action to address widespread disease and death among smallmouth bass in the lower Susquehanna River, the largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

CBF joined the Commission—along with the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, and Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future—in a petition to urge the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to prioritize the health of the Susquehanna and commit to a sound plan to help restore it.

The petition urged DEP to list a 98-mile stretch of the river as an impaired water body on the federal 303(d) Impaired Waters list. Data included in the petition supports the request and warrants including the stretch from Sunbury to the Maryland state line.

"In the autumn of 2011… outbreaks were so severe that approximately 40 percent of the adult smallmouth bass surveyed had extensive lesions and open sores," stated a recent letter from the Commission to DEP.  Similar outbreaks of disease in adults and death of young smallmouth bass in the lower Susquehanna River have occurred in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, as well as 2011. These specific conditions have been found nowhere else in Pennsylvania but in this 98-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River.

The group contends that the river fails to meet some of the basic requirements of the Clean Water Act.

DEP disagreed denied the petition. In January 2013, DEP excluded the river from its 2012 Impaired Waters List

The Importance of Being Declared "Impaired"

Of Pennsylvania's 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and small creeks, over 18,000 miles are currently on the impaired list. Being included on the list ensures that each of these waterways will eventually have a recovery plan. By listing this section of the river, we ensure that a recovery plan will be developed for the lower Susquehanna. 

Based on the studies of the Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, and others, and concerns about a collapse of this economically important fishery ($2.7 million in a 2007 study), the Commission took what steps it could to protect the smallmouth bass. It imposed catch-and-immediate release requirements and closed seasons for smallmouth bass during the spring spawning period.

These actions may help in the short-term, but to return long-term health and sustainability to the fishery, the state must commit to finding the answers and developing a plan to fix the problems.

Designating the river as an impaired waterway helps assure this occurs.

CBF will continue to urge reconsideration of our petition by DEP and EPA, who ultimately must approve DEP's list.

For the millions who depend on the river, the millions of dollars made from her bounty, and for generations to come—there is no better time to act on behalf of the Susquehanna River and clean water.

You may also be interested in:
  • CBF and Partners Call on Court to Dismiss Bay Clean-up Lawsuit CBF has called on Pennsylvania federal court Judge Sylvia Rambo to dismiss a lawsuit filed by agricultural and home building lobbyists who are seeking to abolish scientifically developed limits on pollution that is destroying the Chesapeake Bay.

In the News

09.28.15 - Farm Bureau challenging EPA authority in Chesapeake Bay pollution plan

09.26.15 - Cleanup at Bay

09.23.15 - Bill would protect local farmers with methane digesters from limits on electricity they sell to utilities

09.22.15 - Polluted runoff fees help fight local issues

09.21.15 - CBF Press Release: Farm Bureau Prepares to Ask Supreme Court to Throw Out the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint

09.15.15 - Audio available Canoeing for water quality

09.15.15 - Seeking Clarity? Get involved in river health

09.04.15 - Video Seeking Clarity: York's watershed steward program among ways to get involved

09.04.15 - Video Seeking Clarity: The 'invisible' pollution in York's waterways

09.03.15 - Bay cleanup must be a group project

09.03.15 - Video Seeking Clarity: Penalties loom for Pa.'s failure to meet fed water pollution standards

08.30.15 - Time to walk the walk on clean waters

08.29.15 - EPA: Pennsylvania lagging in pollution reduction

08.27.15 - Natural gas severance tax 'hostage' in Pa. budget battle?

08.26.15 - Veterans event looks to provide peace on the water

08.17.15 - Video Man kayaks entire Susquehanna River, brings attention to water quality

08.14.15 - Susquehanna odyssey is testament to a struggling river

08.09.15 - Making a paddle journey down the river

07.30.15 - CBF Press Release CBF Applauds Somerset County As the 16th County to Join the Clean Water Counts Campaign

07.29.15 - CBF Press Release CBF Supports Severance Tax on Natural Gas Extraction if Clean Water Efforts in Pennsylvania Get Share of the Revenues

07.21.15 - Commit to saving Chesapeake Bay

07.19.15 - Learning lessons in the field

07.19.15 - Teachers get feet wet at Envirothon workshop

07.16.15 - Environment teachers get their feet wet

07.14.15 - Envirothon teachers attend two-day workshop

07.14.15 - CBF Press Release Milestone Assessment Finds Pennsylvania Falling Short of Goals

07.08.15 - Audio available Podcast: Chesapeake Bay ruling 'a great win for clean water'

07.06.15 - Federal court again upholds Chesapeake Bay restoration regulations here

07.07.15 - Advocates for Chesapeake Bay clean-up praise ruling

07.07.15 - Court upholds EPA's 'pollution diet' for Chesapeake Bay

07.05.15 - Trees: the cool solution to water pollution

07.01.15 - Ground Zero for Clean Water

07.01.15 - Pennsylvania off track on Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction

07.01.15 - Pennsylvania leaders must step up to meet clean-water commitments

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