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DEP Announces Twelve Northcentral Counties Begin Countywide Action Plans to Improve Water Quality in Communities

04/27/2021

Williamsport, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that twelve counties in DEP’s Northcentral Region have taken the first significant step to improving the health of local waterways. The counties, with the assistance of DEP, are creating Countywide Action Plans (CAP) to identify projects that will reduce nutrient and sediment pollution in the Susquehanna River and its tributaries and are looking for local groups to get involved.

The effort is part of the state-coordinated Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan to improve water quality to benefit local communities, economy, and quality of life in Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, while meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pollution reduction requirements for the Bay.

“The CAPs provide counties with the data and planning resources they need to identify projects that will help advance local community and economic development goals, while reducing 
pollution in the Susquehanna and other local waters,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

The CAPs are designed to, among many things, identify best management practice (BMP) projects in each county that can decrease the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, two leading sources of pollution, in local waterways. Some of those projects could include stream bank and floodplain restoration, streamside tree plantings, culvert replacement, streambank fencing, and many others. They also provide farmers with tools to implement BMPs on their properties, in particular, effective management of manure, another source of pollution in waterways. Cover crops, soil and water conservation planning, and agriculture erosion and sediment control are among many others. 

County participation in the CAPs is voluntary and the plans are being administered by county conservation districts and county planning departments. All counties in Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, with the exception of those with minimal pollutant loadings, opted into developing CAPs. Eight counties have already completed their plans during an earlier planning phase and have begun implementing projects. 

Community engagement is an important aspect in implementing effective CAPs, so each county is in the process of engaging stakeholders in the effort to improve local waterways. Any environmental or watershed organizations, educational institutions, and county residents who are interested should contact their county conservation district for more information.

The twelve participating Northcentral Region counties are: Bradford, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, and Union. Also within DEP’s Northcentral Region, Centre County has already completed its plan under an earlier phase, and Cameron County did not need to complete a plan because its pollutant loadings within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are minimal.

The twelve counties have partnered together in groups of two and three to share resources, including Environmental Stewardship Fund grants from DEP, which were made available to support county staff and/or consultant assistance to develop the plans.

Pennsylvania made record progress in 2019-2020 in the watershed, achieving its sixth largest annual phosphorus reduction. Wastewater treatment plants contributed 61 percent, their second largest annual phosphorus reduction in 35 years.

Farms contributed 25 percent of the nitrogen reduction and 32 percent of the phosphorus reduction, which is their largest annual phosphorus reduction since 2010. Better accounting of implementation of nutrient and sediment reducing practices, such as the state-required agricultural erosion and sediment control and nutrient and manure management plans, was one contributing factor.

The 12 Northcentral counties will begin implementing their completed CAPs in September.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Megan Lehman, 570-327-3659
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