PA secures $2.5 million in federal grants for watershed cleanup

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Pennsylvania is frequently criticized as the Bay watershed state that lags behind in clean water efforts and funding to minimize pollution runoff upstream.

The federal government is making progress to fix this, with millions of dollars in new funding being granted to protect the Chesapeake Bay. Recently, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Chesapeake Bay Program announced that 10 Pennsylvania projects will receive grants totaling $2.5 million. $8.5 million in grants have already been awarded through this partnership earlier this year.

This year’s grants are the first to come from Pennsylvania’s Most Efficient Ponds (PA-MEB) grant program. The money is for on-the-ground projects that will enhance native wildlife habitat and improve water quality in Pennsylvania’s waterways as well as the Chesapeake Bay downstream. The NFWF says the grants will improve water quality practices on more than 45,000 acres and restore more than 45 miles of river/forest habitat.

“The real advantage is that we put very localized practices into the field. In Lancaster, we are removing local streams from the disabled list,” says Jake Reilly, Director of NFWF Chesapeake Bay Programs. He points out that in addition to cleaning waterways for the health of surrounding residents, these efforts also provide a strong economic benefit to local producers.

For its part, the Lancaster County Conservation District says there has been a lot of outreach in recent years with farmers and landowners. According to District Manager Chris Thompson, “We have willing beneficiaries, people who are ready to invest. We just needed the money.

The money will extend not just to Lancaster County, but much of the Pennsylvania Bay watershed. For example, $50,000 will go toward a watershed assessment of First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek in the western corner of the Bay Area to improve habitat for eastern brook trout. And a nearly $1 million sustainable agriculture grant will help Southeast dairy farms go 100% grass-fed, restoring soil health and improving water quality. . In the Middle Creek watershed in central Pennsylvania, farmers will receive incentive payments to increase the number of acres of cover crops they plant.

New EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz puts it bluntly, “Pennsylvania has been our priority and will continue to be our priority.” He says agricultural runoff is the main focus of this grant program, and they picked the 10 projects they thought would make the biggest difference.

“Someone’s swimming or fishing hole today is someone’s bay tomorrow,” he says.

Meg Walburn Viviano

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