Pennsylvania’s Restoration Strategy
Working with several partners and stakeholders, DEP developed a Chesapeake Bay restoration strategy in 2016 that was comprised of several short, mid and long-term recommendations, aimed at augmenting its approach to water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This strategy informed the development of the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).
The plan is a collaborative effort between the Departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources, along with other stakeholders in the design, development and implementation of the reboot strategy. DEP and its partners are working together to coordinate plans, policies and resources. The goals of this plan include:
- Putting high-impact, low-cost Best Management Practices (BMPs) on the ground and quantifying undocumented BMPs in watersheds impaired by agriculture or stormwater.
- Improving reporting, record- keeping and data systems to provide better and more accessible documentation.
- Addressing nutrient reduction by meeting EPA's goal of inspecting 10 percent of farms in the watershed, ensuring development and use of manure management and agricultural erosion and sediment control plans, and enforcement for non-compliance.
- Identifying legislative, programmatic or regulatory changes to provide the additional tools and resources necessary to meet federal pollution reduction goals by 2025.
- Obtaining additional resources for water quality improvement.
The strategy relies on a mix of technical and financial assistance for farmers, technology, expanded data gathering, improved program coordination and capacity and – only when necessary – stronger enforcement and compliance measures.
The agriculture industry is responsible for contributing three-quarters of the total nutrient reductions expected of states by 2025. That's a sizeable sum, and no small task, but we know there are countless farmers who are doing their part.
One of Pennsylvania's big challenges is that of antiquated data. DEP has been actively working with conservation districts, agricultural industry leaders, other state and federal agencies in order to track and report more previously implemented practices to ensure accounting of existing implementation.
One of the measures taken by DEP is a collaborative effort with PDA, Penn State and other stakeholders to complete a comprehensive, voluntary farm survey to locate, quantify and verify previously undocumented BMPs. A second survey is being conducted in 2020 in four counties who have developed their Countywide Action Plans—Adams, Franklin, Lancaster and York.
We want Pennsylvania farmers to obtain maximum credit, both publicly and in the Bay model, for the good work they are doing to restore local water quality.
DEP has developed a state-of-the-art mobile platform for data collection across the entire watershed that will provide a standardized method of delivery for all county conservation districts.
Pennsylvania’s Restoration Strategy - Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Inspection Program
As part of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Strategy, DEP and participating county conservation districts (CCDs) follow the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Inspection Program (BCW-INSP-018) when conducting inspections on agricultural operations. The inspections conducted as part of the Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Inspection program are completed to ensure compliance with agricultural planning requirements found in the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law. In the 25 counties with participating CCDs, the CCD conducts the inspections. In all remaining counties within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, DEP personnel conduct the inspections.
Since the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Inspection Program in 2016, compliance rates have consistently been above 60% at the time of inspection and nearly all inspected agricultural operations have met their planning obligations by end of the fiscal year they were inspected.
Additionally, CCD and DEP staff are using inspections as an educational tool to help farmers understand the benefits of implementing their required planning documents. Once implemented, the best management practices within their plans will help ensure long-term farm sustainability, environmental protection, and nutrient and sediment reductions.
According to the Pennsylvania Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, the Chesapeake Bay Inspection Program contributed annual nitrogen reductions of 487,000 pounds, phosphorous reductions of 13,400 pounds, and sediment reductions of 31,959,000 pounds.