Grant helps conservation district improve water quality

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Pennsylvania’s Centre County Conservation District (CCCD) is using a Growing Greener grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to establish forest buffers and protect thousands of feet of streambank, which will improve water quality and agriculture practices throughout seven watersheds.

CCCD was awarded just under $1.7 million to conduct 10 projects in nine townships, including six agricultural best management practices (BMP) implementation plans and four streambank stabilization efforts.

Streambank stabilization efforts will include installing riparian buffers in order to keep cattle away from streams that they currently are decimating and polluting through feeding, travel and manure.

“There’s no vegetation to hold anything back, so when it rains, it just goes straight to the creek,” said CCCD agricultural conservation technician John Wataha. “We want to put a buffer between where the livestock are and the streams. The best way to do that is designate an area where the livestock will not congregate, and we want to have a good vegetative filter in between the fence and the streambank, so we’ll plant trees.”

About 10 acres will be controlled and more than 20 acres will have established riparian forest buffers. Manure storage, grass waterways, diversions and repairing denuded areas are also among the projects.

Partners for the projects will contribute about $1 million in matching funds through money and in-kind contributions, about 37 percent of the awarded grant. Partners include local landowners, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Clear Water Conservancy.

“It is one of the largest grants CCCD has secured in the past two decades,” Wataha said. “CCCD has used Growing Greener funds in the past and is completing work with last year’s $700,000 grant. Those projects have been successful,” he said.

When completed, the projects will eliminate invasive species, provide shade and reverse the effects of agriculture on area streams that flow into the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.

“With the buffers and the practices we are putting in above these buffers, we’re anticipating reduction of 14,000 pounds of nitrogen a year and a reduction of about 1,500 pounds of phosphorus and 1,500 tons of sediment,” Wataha said. “It’s good for water quality, and it’s good for wildlife. There’s no reason why within a few years these areas shouldn’t be established.”

“Landowners involved in the projects will have to maintain the buffers,” he said.

Clear Water Conservancy will assist that process through monitoring and ensuring tree shelters are kept in place. The trees that need to be removed will be.

“Landowners who establish buffers through grant programs may qualify for a voucher to go toward other best management practices such as streambank fencing and stream crossings,” Wataha said.

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Tags: Forestry, pennsylvania, Forestry Notes, Centre County Conservation District

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