In 1976, Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a
five (5) year study of the environmental quality and management of the Chesapeake Bay.
In 1983, Pennsylvania joined with other neighboring States and Districts, and the EPA in signing a Chesapeake Bay Agreement providing for a comprehensive and coodinated Bay restoration.
38 Conservation Districts in Pennsylvania are located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and participate in the Chesapeake Bay Program administered by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In recent years, the annual budget for this program in Pennsylvania has been $4.57 million, which includes both federal and state funds. $2.64 million of this budget funds highly trained technicians in all 38 counties who are available to assist farmers with implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their agricultural operations. $1.09 million of this budget funds education, Total Maximum Daily Load development and program management at the state level. The remaining $0.84 million of this budget is used to fund the Chesapeake Bay Special Projects program. Conservation Districts have the opportunity to apply annually to the Bay Special Projects program and have their projects ranked among other districts and funded according to overall ranking based on resource concerns and environmental benefits. The overall goal of the Chesapeake Bay Program is to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution of surface and ground waters flowing to the Chesapeake Bay.
Perry County has been an active participant in the Chesapeake Bay Program since its inception and has brought in over $980,000 in cost share funding to help farmers install BMPs. Recent projects include: installation of fence to covert cropland to pasture using a rotational grazing system, develop volunteer Nutrient Management Plans in accordance with PA Act 38, purchase and distribute specialty cover crop seed, purchase equipment and support of the Conservation District no-till grain drill rental program, cost share seeding of cover crops, host educational field day events, and establish & advise a county based no-till interest group to promote the use of no-till systems through shared experience and mentoring.
A recent directive of the Chesapeake Bay Program in order to meet president Barrack Obama’s Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order was to develop the Pennsylvania’s Watershed Implementation Plan or WIP, both phase I and phase II. The WIPs detail Pennsylvania’s role in meeting federally established timelines and restoration efforts to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by the year 2025. As part of the WIP, Conservation districts will be focusing on visiting farmers one on one to provide them with education materials and have discussions of current farm regulations for both erosion and nutrients and encouraging them to have updated plans on file for their operations. Conservation Districts will also transition from assisting farmers on a voluntary basis to a more regulatory role of compliance enforcement in future years. For more information on Pennsylvania’s phase I and phase II WIP’s and the Chesapeake Bay Program visit www.dep.state.pa.us.
| Perry County Conservation District’s County Implementation Plan provides further explanation of the county’s strategy to assist in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.