Last week, the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee heard the initial recommendations for farm and forestry best management practices and approaches to include in Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan to meet the 2025 Chesapeake Bay cleanup obligations.
DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell also reported the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council Monday approved the final planning target nutrient reduction numbers for each state, noting Pennsylvania’s numbers, while still very challenging, did not change from the 73-million-pound nitrogen reduction number.
John Bell, co-chair of the Agriculture Work Group from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, presented preliminary recommendations of the group that included (from largest nitrogen reductions):
Agricultural Compliance: Sets goals of having farm conservation plans on 90 percent of crop and hay lands, proper runoff controls on 90 percent of feed/barnyard areas on permitted CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Farm Operations) and 67 percent of feed/barnyard from others. Yields: 8.1 million pound nitrogen reduction, 236,000 pound phosphorus reduction at an estimated cost of about $30.5 million.
Forested And Grassed Buffers: Sets a goal of 25 percent of agricultural land along streams with a buffer of at least 35 feet in width and 15 percent of other land adjacent to streams with a 35 foot width, both with fencing to exclude animals from streams. Yields: 8 million pounds of nitrogen, 1 million pounds of phosphorus at a cost of $44.9 million.
Practices for Improved Soil Health: Sets a series of goals for residue management, use of cover crops, prescribed grazing. Yields: 7.6 million pounds nitrogen reduction, 327,300 pounds of phosphorus at a cost of about $30.3 million.
Enhanced Manure Storage Facility Development: Sets goals of 90 percent of swine and poultry operations and 75 percent of other livestock operations. Yields: 7 million pounds of nitrogen, 303,900 pounds of phosphorus at a cost of $204.6 million.
Elimination of Excess Manure: Among the options are transporting manure out of the Bay Watershed, but no specific recommendations made. Yields: 957,000 pounds of nitrogen, 181,500 pounds of phosphorus at an unknown cost because no specific recommendations were made.
Enhanced Nutrient Management Planning On Lands Not Receiving Manure: Sets a goal of nutrient plans on 20 percent of crop land not receiving animal manure. Yields: 817,000 pounds of nitrogen, 44,200 pounds of phosphorus at a cost of $18.1 million.
Precision Feeding & Management of Diet: Sets a goal of 33 percent of dairy operations adopting precision feeding. Yields: 610,000 pounds of nitrogen, 61,200 pounds of phosphorus at a net cost reduction of $1.7 million.
The total impact of these recommendations are a nitrogen reduction of over 33.3 million pounds and 2.1 million pounds of phosphorus at an estimated cost of $326.9 million.
The report also identified potential barriers to the success or failure of the recommendations in the report the group felt should be addressed:
- Discourage imposition of legal mandates on stakeholders and landowners
- Financial and tax incentives for landowner participation in changing or preserving land use
- Reporting and confidentiality
- Increased technical assistance in design and implementation of agricultural BMPs
- Advanced soil-health initiatives
- Innovative regulatory incentives for attainment of priority agricultural BMP implementation initiatives
- Reevaluation of existing funding sources and their uses
- Enhanced nutrient-management planning for biosolids
- Expanded coordination of joint MS4 (stormwater) and non-point source nutrient pollution reduction actions and offsetting
- Coordinated streambank measures
- Increased and extensive focus in legacy sediment programs
Matt Keefer, Forestry Workgroup co-chair from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, gave an overview of the recommendations by the Workgroup primarily concerned with speeding up the installation of riparian forest buffers. The recommendations included–
Communications: Stressed the co-benefits, in addition to nutrient reduction, including flood reduction, improving terrestrial and aquatic habitat, shading waterways and restoration of a watershed; highlighted the need for producer/farmer led outreach to the agriculture communities and creating a culture of stewardship;
Agency and Partner Leadership and Coordination: Leveraging funding, consistent support for buffers and capitalization of regional partner network;
Technical Assistance: Increase capacities of agencies, nonprofits and businesses for landowner-focused assistance;
Funding: Use public and private sources, offer landowner incentives, income-producing buffers, pay for success models and enhanced CREP and set a goal of supporting 1,400 acres annually;
Reporting and Tracking: Enhance the practice keeper system and need to do more for partner and privately funded projects;
Site Preparation and Maintenance: Clarify landowner understanding of buffer-related practices, improve practices to promote early planting success;
Riparian Forest Buffer Width: Set a goal of developing 100-foot wide buffers with a minimum width of 35 feet;
Concentrated Flow Paths: Training and guidelines needed.
Stream Restoration and Legacy Sediments: Understanding where stream restoration fits into the Watershed Implement Plan and understanding the science; and
Conserving Existing Riparian Forests: Protecting existing buffers is critical to ensure progress.
Nicki Kasi, program manager for DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office, said DEP plans to have a one-day workshop on August 30 on the issue of verifying if farm, stormwater, and forest best management practices have been installed correctly and are being maintained.
The goal of the workshop is to develop a revised BMP Verification Program that responds to Pennsylvania’s needs and meets the expectations of EPA. She said the Plan could incorporate tools like surveys, inspections, remote sensing, and other verification techniques.
Click here for a tentative agenda.
The next meeting of the steering committee is scheduled for September 10 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Click here to attend the meeting by webinar. Participants will also need to call in 1-650-479-3208, PASSCODE 641 463 243.
The tentative agenda for the next meeting includes reports by the Stormwater and Wastewater workgroups, report on county planning process progress, BMP-verification plan, and an outline of the Watershed Implementation Plan and EPA expectations.
For more information and available handouts, visit the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee webpage. Each meeting of the steering committee is recorded and will be available online.