This is the fifth and final in a series of blogs on how community conservation groups worked with farmers in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and Rockingham County, Virginia, to improve the water quality of local streams and rivers through various Best Management Practices. Read the fourth, third, second, and first parts.
Mill Creek is no longer impaired for phosphorus and sediment, and both Muddy Creek and lower Dry River are no longer impaired for nitrogen. These important achievements came about directly through the Clean Water Blueprint process. Meanwhile, though Stephen Foster Lake, lower Dry River, and Muddy Creek still carry impairments, the trends in their monitoring data show clear improvement.
Progress on these waterways continues as farmers continue to work with their federal, state, county, and private partners. Properly designed and installed combinations of conservation practices can and do improve water quality in areas of land being intensively farmed.
Healing the tributaries of the Susquehanna and the Shenandoah--and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay itself--will require both Pennsylvanians and Virginians to replicate these ongoing projects on many streams in the Chesapeake drainage basin. Meeting that challenge will require the kind of dedication to good stewardship, cooperation, trust, technical assistance, funding support, and, in some cases, carefully-applied pressure that have helped the farmers and septic system owners on Mill Creek, Muddy Creek, and lower Dry River to make substantive improvements.
Meeting the challenge will be an ongoing task. For now, though, the take-home messages are that installing conservation practices can be done on working farms, and they do improve and protect water quality. Thanks to the federal Farm Bill, state support, and private grants, funding packages can make conservation practices affordable for family farmers. The bottom line is that we CAN restore streams and lakes that benefit the public at large, while helping farmers remain profitable. The farmers and their partners in these projects deserve the deep thanks and respect of everyone who has a stake in clean water.
--John Page Williams