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What is the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan?

​The Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan spells out how Pennsylvania will meet its 2025 pollution reduction goals for the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers, which drain to the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania's neighbors -- Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and Virginia are also preparing similar plans. This is the third time these states have updated their roadmap for cleaning up the waterways they share. 

Pennsylvania developed its Phase 1 WIP in 2010, and its Phase 2 WIP in 2012.

Who can participate in implementing the Phase 3 WIP?

Everyone who cares about their community and their waterways is welcome to get involved in cleaning up our local waters! We have a special need for thoughtful input from: 

  • Streamside property owners
  • Conservation Districts, and environmental or outdoor organizations who know the waterways first hand
  • Leaders in any sector that have strong connections to waterways, such as local government, agriculture, forestry, construction, and water and wastewater authorities
  • Community groups whose focus goes beyond those above, but that care deeply about their community. 
What are Countywide Action Plans?

​Countywide Action Plans are the building blocks of the statewide plan. There are 43 Pennsylvania counties whose waters run to either the Susquehanna or Potomac rivers, which drain to the Chesapeake Bay. Each of these counties will plan how they will meet pollution reduction goals set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). At this time, counties have a lot of discretion in how they choose to meet their goals. Counties who do not reach these goals risk having stricter requirements imposed upon them by the EPA.

Countywide Action Plans can help counties identify actions that help them address their local issues AND meet DEP goals. By creating a Countywide Action Plan, counties can develop a strategy for: cleaning up local waters, lowering flood risks, and improving the quality of life in their community.

Where are the counties that will develop Countywide Action Plans?

Forty-three of Pennsylvania’s counties drain to either the Susquehanna or the Potomac rivers. We have calculated how much pollution is entering these waterways and where it comes from. Each county has its own goal to reduce its fair share. Some counties have more work to do than others.

Pennsylvania’s neighbors also have similar responsibilities. New York, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, and Washington DC are all working together to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, which is our shared downstream resource. 

When will my county get started on its Countywide Action Plan? How long will it take?

​Four counties have already started — York, Adams, Lancaster, and Franklin. The other 39 counties will start in fall 2019. It will take 6-8 months for each county to develop their plan. DEP submitted the Phase 3 WIP to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August 2019. Implementation of the plan will be ongoing until Pennsylvania meets its nutrient pollution reduction goals.

Who can help write their County's Action Plans? What is expected?

Everyone who cares about their community and their waterways is welcome to review the draft and submit comments! We have a special need for thoughtful input from: 

  • Streamside property owners
  • Conservation Districts, and environmental or outdoor organizations who know the waterways first hand
  • Leaders in any sector that have strong connections to waterways, such as local government, agriculture, forestry, construction, and water and wastewater authorities

Participants are expected to come prepared to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The planning process provides a forum for local leaders and community members to work together and make decisions about how they will meet the DEP pollution reduction goals for their county. Participants can expect to attend meetings and conference calls with local partners, brainstorm around solutions, and offer opinions on the best way to meet the goal set for your county.

If you want to be a leader or a part of the solution, provide us with your contact information using this simple online form. When your county’s action plan process begins, we will provide your contact information to the organizers.

Why is it worth my time to help write a Countywide Action Plan?

It’s an opportunity for you to make a difference for your community! Cleaner and healthier waterways improve the quality of life and business environment. They flood less often and are safe and appealing for family activities like boating and fishing. Also, studies show that healthy waterways increase property values. 

Pennsylvania communities have made a lot of progress in improving local waterways over the last 40 years. Many streams that once ran orange with abandoned mine pollution are now places where residents gather to swim, fish, boat, and play. There’s more work to be done to bring this progress to every corner of the state. Pennsylvania has cut the amount of phosphorus pollution going downstream by more than one-third, and the amount of nitrogen pollution by about one-sixth.

This is also an opportunity to ensure that your business interests are considered as your county figures out how it will meet its goals. 

How do the counties write their Countywide Action Plan?

DEP will provide each county with a customized toolbox to facilitate the planning process. The toolbox outlines the process, identifies county pollution reduction goals, and provides local planning tools. Once the county’s team is ready, DEP will guide them through each step of the process. It will take a fair amount of staff time and administrative effort to get this done. Some counties may choose to dedicate a full-time staff person to this process, others elect to bring in partners or contractors to help.

What will happen if we don’t make a Countywide Action Plan?

Counties who choose not to create a Countywide Action Plan will still be required to meet their county pollution reduction goals. Counties are encouraged to create Countywide Action Plans so they get credit for the actions they have already taken and decide for themselves how they reach their goals. 

What happens if Pennsylvania falls short of the cleanup goals in the Phase 3 WIP?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated goals that Pennsylvania must meet by 2025, but has also given lots of flexibility in how to meet the goals. If EPA determines that Pennsylvania is falling short of its cleanup responsibilities, it may step in. If this happens, likely consequences include:

  • More livestock operations and municipalities subject to federal regulations
  • EPA may withhold or redirect funding
  • Impose new responsibilities for Pennsylvania in the Bay TMDL
  • Require additional reductions from point sources, such as wastewater and industrial facilities
  • Impose new water quality standards stream-by-stream in Pennsylvania
Why focus on local involvement and partnerships to develop Countywide Action Plans?

DEP believes that the path to success starts at the local level. You understand your own community, economy, waterways, and challenges better than anybody. If you choose to get involved in this process, you will have a say in how the goals get met. You can shape the mix of solutions that are chosen within your county. This is also an opportunity to ensure that your business interests are considered.

Who is in charge of leading the development of each county’s Countywide Action Plan?

Each county can decide that for itself. Every county is different and faces unique challenges. Some counties may even choose to work together to reach shared goals. Generally, each planning team should include:

  • Local community members
  • County leaders/staff, such as Planning Commissions and Conservation Districts
  • Municipal leaders/staff
  • Environmental/watershed group representatives
  • Farmers and agricultural organizations
  • Local businesses and business organizations
Is funding available to support projects included in a Countywide Action Plan?

As you work through the process, your plan will help to identify need funding and resources so that, through this planning effort, we can together identify possible funding sources. Options include but are not limited to federal and state grant and cost share programs for local government, private fund sources, and philanthropic grants for not-for-profit community groups.

What metrics will be used to measure pollution reduction?

DEP has set goals for each county to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. There are many possible solutions to these problems, and the solutions often have other benefits, such as flood reduction, cleaner water supplies, safer roads, better outdoor recreation, and improved property values. A county can choose to include other goals in their Countywide Action Plan that they want to see happen at the local level.

What is the relationship between the Countywide Action Plan and the MS4 permit program?

Preparing a strong Countywide Action Plan is a great way to convince EPA that they don’t need to expand MS4 in your area. Counties can take credit for their MS4 compliance activities in their Countywide Action Plan.

Has Pennsylvania met its EPA pollution reduction goals in the past?

Pennsylvania has made a lot of progress. We’ve cut phosphorus pollution by one-third and nitrogen pollution by about one-sixth. However, we are still behind our neighboring states. 

What’s with all the jargon?

Technical words and jargon are minimal in this document, but if you choose to review the full Phase 3 WIP or a Countywide Action Plan, you’ll be exposed to some. Here’s a cheat sheet:

Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL for short. This is the required 2025 cleanup goals for each state, set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some call it the “pollution diet.” Your county’s pollution reduction goals are your fair share of this total. 

Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan, or “WIP” for short. This is how Pennsylvania will figure out how to meets its responsibilities between 2019 and 2025. Pennsylvania’s neighbors are doing this as well. Phase 2 ran from 2012 to 2018. Phase 1 ran from 2010 to 2012. 


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