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Pennsylvania's Bay History

Pennsylvania's 2025 pollution reduction goals are achievable if we work together!


Pennsylvania's efforts to reduce nutrients running into its local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay began in 1985. In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set expectations for Pennsylvania and neighboring states (Maryland, New York, West Virginia, Delaware, Virginia, and Washington D.C.) to meet by 2025. Each state's plan for meeting their Phosphorus (P) and Nitrogen (N) reduction goals is outlined in Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP).

In 2009, Pennsylvania submitted the Phase 1 WIP to EPA. The goal of the Phase 1 WIP was to identify pollutant sources and develop source specific solutions to achieve reductions. In 2011, Pennsylvania submitted the Phase 2 WIP to EPA. The development of the Phase 2 WIP relied heavily on public input and the inclusion of adaptive management principles in the plan. Both the Phase 1 WIP and Phase 2 WIP led to significant reductions in Pennsylvania's nutrient load to the Bay, but more work is needed. 

The Phase 3 WIP focuses on local solutions for nutrient reduction. There are 43 counties in Pennsylvania whose local waters run to the Bay. This phase of the WIP focuses efforts within those counties to meet nutrient reduction goals through local county-level planning. These Countywide Action Plans offer a way for local priorities to drive how state nutrient reduction goals are met. Countywide Action Plans can help countries develop a strategy for: cleaning up local waters, lowering flood risks, and improving the quality of life in their community.

Work to support the counties in the planning process began in 2018. A county Clean Water Guide and Technical Toolbox with guidance and resources was created for counties to use during the planning process. The toolbox was tested in four pilot counties (Lancaster, York, Adams and Franklin). County feedback was used to improve the toolbox and transition it from one large document, into a set of concise resources with planning and reporting templates:

  • Community Clean Water Guide (background and planning resources)
  • Community Clean Water Technical Toolbox (county specific data and technical resources)
  • Planning and Progress Template
  • Programmatic Recommendations Template
  • Community Clean Water Action Plan Narrative Template 

In addition to work with the counties, the Phase 3 WIP relies heavily on the support of seven workgroups: Agriculture, Wastewater, Stormwater, Forestry, Communications and Engagement, Funding, and Local Area Goals. Each workgroup is made up of a diverse group of individuals representing a variety of relevant organizations and interests. The sector-specific workgroups were each tasked with looking at how their respective sectors contribute to PA's Phosphorus and Nitrogen loads, and what each sector could to help Pennsylvania reach its 2025 nutrient reduction goals.

The Phase 3 WIP was submitted to EPA in August 2019. All 43 Bay Watershed counties are expected to have Countywide Action Plans in place by the end of 2020. Pennsylvania expects to have continued success in reducing phosphorous and nitrogen pollution flowing to the Bay.