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.
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. The top 34 counties with the highest nutrient and sediment load planned how they will meet pollution reduction goals set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). 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 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.
Everyone who cares about their community and their waterways is welcome to participate in the implementation of their CAP! Counties have a special need for involvement 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.
Participants are expected to come prepared to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The implementation process provides an opportunity for local leaders and community members to work together and put practices in the ground to help meet the DEP pollution reduction goals for their county.
If you want to be a leader or a part of the solution, reach out to your CAP Coordinator.
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.
DEP provided each county with a customized toolbox to facilitate the planning process. The toolbox outlined the process, identified county pollution reduction goals, and provided local planning tools. DEP guided them through each step of the process. It took a fair amount of staff time and administrative effort to get this done. Some counties chose to dedicate a full-time coordinator to this process, others elected to bring in partners or contractors to help.
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
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.
Each county decided that for itself. Every county is different and faces unique challenges. Some counties are working together to reach shared goals. Generally, each planning team included:
- 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
Each county's CAP helped to identify needed funding and resources. Many funding options are available which 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.
The Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management developed the Chesapeake Bay Countywide Action Plan Implementation Block Grants. The purpose of this program is to provide a mechanism to fund the implementation of Countywide Action Plans (CAPs) developed at the county level to maximize specified nutrient and sediment reduction goals established as part of Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). Through this program, multiple state and federal funding sources can be focused through one agreement to a lead county agency to implement the CAP.
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.
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.
Pennsylvania has made a lot of progress. Pennsylvania amended its Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan in July 2022 to include all Countywide Action Plans and other measures, demonstrating how, if funding support is provided, we will achieve 100 percent of our water quality restoration goals. However, we are still behind our neighboring states.