Bird and marsh grass along the Chesapeake Bay. (Image via the Virginia Office of Natural Resources).
Nearly three-dozen counties across Pennsylvania were awarded millions of dollars in grant funding this week to clean up local waterways that flow into the Chesapeake Bay, despite federal officials rejecting the commonwealth’s clean-up plan last month.
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it had awarded $12.2 million in 2023 Countywide Action Plan (CAP) Implementation Grants to 34 counties to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in local waterways that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
Pennsylvania is part of a multi-state effort to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in waterways throughout watershed states, such as Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and West Virginia, as well as Washington D.C. The plan requires Pennsylvania to reduce nitrogen levels in its Bay-bound waterways by 32.5 million pounds, and phosphorus by 850,000 pounds by 2025.
Acting DEP Secretary Ramez Ziadeh said the CAP grants are a “key component” of Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Improvement Plan (WIP), which was rejected by federal environmental officials in November.
While DEP said that Phase 3 of its WIP “takes a Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities approach, inviting county teams to take control of local water quality improvement, with state and other partners providing as much data, technical assistance, funding, and other support as possible,” federal environmental officials said then that the plan did not “fully demonstrate” how the commonwealth will meet its 2025 bay restoration goals.
All or some of 43 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are located within the commonwealth’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which includes more than 12,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers, according to DEP.
“In every county, local leaders and partners in agriculture, conservation, and other areas are carrying out measures they’ve determined will have the biggest impact in reducing pollution and bringing the benefits of a healthy watershed to their communities,” Ziadeh said. “DEP is committed to doing everything it can to support this unprecedented grassroots action and progress.”
Grant funds were awarded to 34 counties in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed:
- Adams County Conservation District: $318,149
- Bedford County Conservation District: $392,424
- Berks County Conservation District: $104,511
- Blair County Conservation District: $95,706
- Bradford County Conservation District: $276,306
- Cambria County Conservation District: $85,860
- Centre County Government: $389,876
- Chester County Conservation District: $281,527
- Clearfield County Conservation District: $117,404
- Clinton County Commissioners: $188,817
- Cumberland County Commissioners: $570,360
- Franklin County Conservation District: $1,035,542
- Fulton County Conservation District: $241,854
- Huntingdon County Conservation District: $175,445
- Lackawanna County Conservation District: $225,162
- Lancaster County Conservation District: $3,066,264
- Lebanon County Conservation District: $451,234
- Luzerne Conservation District: $45,557
- Lycoming County Commissioners: $306,407
- Montour County Conservation District: $436,064 for Montour, Columbia, and Sullivan counties
- Northumberland County Conservation District: $297,556
- Potter County Conservation District: $63,534
- Schuylkill Conservation District: $181,753
- Snyder County Conservation District: $556,219 for Snyder and Union counties
- Susquehanna County: $129,535
- Tioga County Conservation District: $185,807
- Tri-County Regional Planning Commission: $1,036,915 for Dauphin, Perry, Juniata, and Mifflin counties
- York County Planning Commission: $1,042,938
Funding for the grants comes from several sources, including the state Environmental Stewardship Fund and $2.9 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The grants will “enable teams to build on their previous years’ successes and launch new projects, accelerating Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan,” Ziadeh said.
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