Recent EPA approval of a new restoration plan for the Pequea Creek Watershed clears the way for federal funding to put practices on the ground to reduce pollution from agriculture and urban development in Lancaster and Chester counties.
The plan, developed by Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Watershed Coordinator Brian Gish in Pennsylvania, is now eligible for federal funding through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.
Section 319 funding addresses non-point source pollution from agriculture, stormwater, and acid mine drainage. To qualify for the federal dollars, the water body must be impaired and have an approved plan to make it unimpaired.
Portions of the Pequea Creek Watershed began appearing on the state’s list of impaired waters in 1996, 1998, and 2000, due to excessive nutrient and sediment loading.
Within the 153 square-mile Pequea Creek Watershed, Section 319 funding will be used to keep soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water with such practices as cover crops, no-till agriculture, nutrient management, animal waste management, riparian buffers, streambank fencing, streambank stabilization, and reducing legacy sediment.
“EPA approval marks a major milestone in the multi-year development of a strategy to heal this iconic waterway,” Gish said. “Partners ranging from local government and citizens to leaders of the Amish church and agricultural sectors, tailored this plan to the needs, values and vision of the watershed’s communities.
“The plan’s recommendations are backed by hard science,” Gish added. “Thorough analysis of land use, best management practices, and nutrient and sediment pollution sources were used to validate every strategy.”
“The Pequea plan is built upon what we call the 4P’s—the right Plans; in strategic Places; focused on the right Practices; and with engaged Partners,” said Harry Campbell, CBF Science Policy and Advocacy Director in Pennsylvania. “It integrates with Lancaster’s Countywide Action Plan and the state’s watershed implementation plan for the Chesapeake Bay.”
“The approval of this plan means Lancaster is one step closer to achieving clean and clear streams. We applaud the effort of local organizations who have diligently worked to document water quality and outline needs for restoration to restore the Pequea and its tributaries,” said Allyson Gibson, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Programs for Lancaster Clean Water Partners. “We’re thrilled that this will also open the door for federal funding to drive clean water efforts in the Pequea Creek watershed and beyond.”
Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) had earlier secured $2.18 million for the Pequea plan. It was the first time in a decade that senators were able to request funds for specific projects in annual appropriations bills.
Senator Casey also acquired $1.06 million for the Halfmoon Creek Watershed restoration plan in Centre and Huntingdon counties that was organized by Caitlin Glagola, CBF Watershed Coordinator in Pennsylvania. That plan was also approved by the EPA for Section 319 funding
Increased state and federal investments in Pennsylvania agriculture are key to getting the Commonwealth back on track to meeting its Clean Water Blueprint goals. More than 90 percent of the remaining pollution reductions must come from agriculture.
“The challenge of writing the plan pales in comparison to implementing it,” Gish added about the Pequea plan. “This will require decades of efforts, but with continued community support and funding, the Pequea will one day reach its vibrant potential. CBF will be there every step along the way, working hard for this stream’s bright future.”
Gish and Glagola are developing new watershed restoration plans for the Upper Conestoga River in Lancaster, Berks, and Chester counties, and Marsh Creek in Centre County respectively.
Funding vital for development of the Pequea and Halfmoon watershed restoration plans was made possible by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.