County Receives $ 527,000 Grant for Local Drinking Water Projects | News, Sports, Jobs
Lycoming County has been selected to receive a grant of $ 527,391 to implement drinking water projects in the county to potentially improve the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Officials from the conservation district, along with a representative from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, discussed three projects that provide funds that will enable best management practices that officials say will benefit local watersheds.
However, the impact is not limited to the local community – state funding was specifically provided to help counties reduce nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus pollution in the Bay of Watershed. Chesapeake.
“You can carry out a local project and see an immediate impact on a small local flow”, Megan Lehman, community relations coordinator for DEP, said. âIt also happens to meet the state’s obligations for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. “
Officials initially touted the no-till drilling equipment rental program. The county farm has a $ 40,000 Haybuster 77, a tool that plants seeds and presses the soil on them with a disc device.
Owners of small farms can rent the device, which is able to plant seeds faster than ordinary plows, prevents runoff and uses less gas.
“Most of the people who use it have day jobs” Tim Heyler, an agricultural conservation technician, said. âIt saves land, money and time. Farmers can run in a field once instead of three times.
The rental program will be expanded with the acquisition of a Haybuster 107, which is 10 feet wide instead of 7 feet wide. This will increase the ability of the Conservation District to rent two machines at a time, and while three feet may not seem like a huge difference at first, it does add up, âHeyler said.
The Haybuster can be rented on a first come, first serve basis, which can get very crowded as its use is clustered in the spring and fall. The conservation district can have it delivered to farms, according to Don Morehart, a Chesapeake Bay technician. Interested farmers should call the Conservation District at 570-433-3003.
County officials then discussed plans for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Pine Run, which was ravaged by erosion of the sediment.
Dave Putnam, a fish and wildlife biologist at the Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the project, said the Fish and Wildlife Service has wanted to start a Pine Run restoration project for years and now has the funds to do so. .
The project will focus on a one kilometer stretch of Pine Run that passes under a culvert on South Pine Run Road. According to Putnam, the culvert easily becomes blocked with sticks and logs due to its size.
The culvert, along with a railroad bridge, suffocates the creek, according to Heyler. This causes a “garden hose effect” on the rest of the stream, where the water tries to bypass the bridges.
This is made worse by the fact that the stream is deeper than it was historically, meaning the banks are too high to be strengthened by planting trees.
The project aims to replace the culvert with a bridge, as well as add “Mud sills” under the banks of Pine Run which will shield the banks. This helps cut off a circular water flow that erodes the riverbanks.
By completing this project, the Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to reduce sediment runoff and support fish habitat structures at Pine Run.
Putnam said erosion is detrimental to most aquatic organisms in a creek or stream. When erosion occurs, the sediment ends up at the bottom of the body of water, smothering aquatic insects under the rocks, according to Putnam.
Morehart said losing the thickness of a dime on a mile of stream adds up to five tons. Erosion occurs over months and years, which means it’s hard to notice at first.
“If you can see the erosion, it’s bad”, Heyler said.
The Pine Run watershed is considered a 303 (d), which means it is altered by agricultural sediment. The goal of the Conservation District is to use best management practices to eventually remove Pine Run from this list.
The third conservation district demonstration showed the effects of inducing cover crop fields during the off months on an agricultural field on Level Corners Road.
Under normal circumstances, weather conditions push fertilizer out of fields and into watersheds, according to Morehart. However, planting cereals or other covers helps absorb and hold the fertilizers in place. When the cover crop is killed when planting crops for the harvest, the fertilizer is reabsorbed into the soil for the following season. Plus, cover crops help keep topsoil in place.
The conservation district will use part of the grant money to incentivize farmers to plant cover crops.
Heyler said that sometimes farmers are reluctant to adopt new practices as it can affect a year’s harvest and income.
“Farmers have an aversion to risk”, Heyler said. âWe eliminate the risk by encouraging its use. Cover crops are the cheapest thing you can do, while making the most money.
Lycoming County stood out from other counties as the largest county in Pennsylvania that also had the most stakeholders invested in making its projects happen (around 150), according to Jared Dressler, interim regional director of the center-north for the DEP.
The conservation district does not have a line-by-line allocation for grant money. Instead, it places funding where it is able to push existing projects that already have partial funding past the threshold to see them start and end.
The grant money can be used until 2025. However, most projects operate for the long term, which means the results cannot be seen immediately, according to Dressler. However, the conservation district intends to continue its projects well beyond this date.
Pennsylvania’s share of the Chesapeake Bay watershed covers half of the state and includes more than 12,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Stewardship Fund has allocated $ 15 million and the Environmental Protection Agency has allocated $ 2.4 million to support the coordination of county-wide action plans, which include best management practices outlined by members of the conservation district.
Gov. Tom Wolf said the state has started to see improved watershed health thanks to county-level government groups as well as nonprofit and private sector partners.
“It is crucial that their unprecedented momentum is backed by broad support”, said Wolf. âTheir actions will benefit our drinking water, protect the long-term viability of our farms and the outdoor recreation economy, and help our communities reduce flooding and attract businesses. “