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BMP Verification

Pennsylvania’S BMP Verification Program

The Chesapeake Bay Program has called for increased transparency and scientific rigor in the verification of the best management practices that are implemented as part of the states' Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

To respond to this request, Strengthening Verification of Best Management Practices Implemented in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed: A Basinwide Framework, Report and Documentation from the Chesapeake Bay Program Water Quality Goal Implementation Team's BMP Verification Committee (Verification Framework) (Chesapeake Bay Program 2014), was developed. The Verification Framework is intended to serve as a guide for the states to document the methodology for verification of BMP installation, function, and continued effectiveness of practices over time. This Verification Framework provides the requirements for reporting and documentation of practice verification for the states to follow. Specific guidance is provided for each of the source sectors (agriculture, forestry, urban stormwater, wastewater, wetlands, and streams). High priority BMPs include Riparian Buffers, Manure Management Plans, No-Till Agriculture (PDF), and use of Cover Crops.

Farmer Survey

2016 Survey Provides First Documentation of Farmers' Voluntary Water Quality Best Management Practices

Results of the 2016 survey of Pennsylvania farmers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed were announced on December 15. Based on survey responses and on-site verification, they provide the first official documentation that many farmers have implemented a number of best management practices (BMPs) voluntarily and at their own expense to reduce the nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment levels entering local streams and rivers and, ultimately, the Bay.

DEP, the Department of Agriculture, Penn State, and other stakeholders partnered on the survey, which was completed by 6,782 farmers in 41 counties.

DEP held a live media webinar on the survey at 10:00 am on December 16. DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell; Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding; Matthew Royer, director of the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center; and Rich Batiuk, Associate Director for Science, Analysis and Implementation at the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office discussed the survey process and results and what they mean for cleaning up local waters and charting Pennsylvania’s progress on its bay watershed goals.

Respondents reported implementing and covering the cost of the following BMPs:

  • 475,800 acres of nutrient/manure management
  • 97,562 acres of enhanced nutrient management
  • 2,164 animal-waste storage units
  • 2,106 barnyard runoff-control systems
  • 55,073 acres of agricultural erosion and sedimentation control plans
  • 228,264 acres of conservation plans
  • More than 1.3 million linear feet of stream-bank fencing
  • 1,757 acres of grass riparian buffers
  • 5,808 acres of forested riparian buffers

The survey is important for three reasons:

  1. They confirm that Pennsylvania farmers are doing water-quality protection work that has previously been unaccounted for and can be factored into the documentation of Pennsylvania’s progress on its Chesapeake Bay Watershed goals.
  2. These results underscore that our water protection strategies and programs must be based on good, accurate data. This is necessary to our ability to target resources to meet the recommendations and action items put forth last January by Governor Wolf in Pennsylvania’s Bay Restoration Strategy. Moreover, having accurate data is key to developing Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan, ensuring a plan that is accurate, realistic, and implementable.
  3. Finally, the survey protocol is replicable—giving us a reliable method for documenting farmers’ best management practices in the future, as we work to ensure that all efforts are counted in charting Pennsylvania’s progress on meeting its bay watershed goals.

With 33,600 active Pennsylvania farms in the watershed, notes DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, Achieving our water quality improvement goals is no easy task. Any solution must balance our interest in both improving local water quality and maintaining a vibrant agricultural sector. This survey acknowledges that agriculture is part of the solution.

For more information, see the Chesapeake Bay Program Survey Summary.