Trees, Pollution, and an Arbor Day Planting

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A work detail of CBF PA staff, students, State Senator Rich Alloway, and others, planted 150 Arbor Day Foundation tree and shrub seedlings along Burd Run at Shippensburg Township Park on April 30, Arbor Day. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

On the day dedicated to appreciating the value of planting trees, that is exactly what a work detail of Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) staff, a handful of students, and a state senator did at a park in southcentral Pennsylvania.

The group planted about 150 Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) tree and shrub seedlings along Burd Run at Shippensburg Township Park on April 30, Arbor Day.

The planting was a few trees short of that achieved in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day in 1872. The state Board of Agriculture back then said "set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit," and offered prizes to those who planted the largest number of trees. More than one million were planted that day.

Planting the variety of sycamores, poplars, oaks, and shrubs into the wet Pennsylvania soil, under overcast skies this Arbor Day, was as important as any effort before it.

"One of the cheapest and easiest ways to protect and filter our waters is to plant trees," state Senator Rich Alloway (R-33rd District) said during a break from wielding a sledgehammer. He spent hours driving in stakes that support tube shelters to protect newly-planting seedlings. Senator Alloway's Chief of Staff, Jeremy Shoemaker, and Legislative Director Chad Reichard were also there to help.

Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff into rivers and streams. Trees are an effective solution.

Trees and their roots can filter as much as 60 percent of nitrogen, 40 percent of phosphorus and nearly half of sediment in polluted runoff. A single mature oak tree can absorb over 40,000 gallons of water per year. Trees also provide flood control, cool water for brook trout, wildlife habitat, and even improve the air we breathe.

Senator Alloway represents Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties, and is a Pennsylvania member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. He has been a strong advocate for clean water and for planting trees to keep rivers and streams clean.

"We are behind in the number of trees we are supposed to be planting," Senator Alloway said. "I've challenged my colleagues in the Senate and my fellow neighbors to go out and plant trees." The Senator has set a goal to plant 10,000 trees in his district this year. "We are on our way," he added. "We've got quite a few in the ground already, but we need more help from you. All citizens can go out and make a difference."

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CBF PA Restoration Specialist Kristen Hoke, explains proper staking technique to PA State Senator Rich Alloway, left, and CBF PA Grassroots Organizer Hannah Ison, during an Arbor Day tree planting. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Seniors from Shippensburg and Big Spring high schools helped with the Arbor Day tree planting, as did Marel King, Pennsylvania director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. Shippensburg Township Supervisors Linda Asper, Steve Oldt, and Marc Rideout were there to offer encouragement and appreciation.

The crew worked under the supervision of CBF restoration specialist Kristen Hoke.

The student involvement was also part of CBF's new Mentors in Agricultural Conservation job-shadowing program in Pennsylvania. About 25 students signed up for the mentoring program to do restoration work and learn first-hand about conservation projects on farms.

When they were finished with the planting, Big Spring senior Truman Heberlig wanted to know if he could get groups of students help plant trees at other projects.

With financial support from the Arbor Day Foundation, CBF purchased roughly 14,000 trees through local conservation district tree sales for planting this year. Last year, CBF gave away 12,280 trees to 148 landowners in 14 Pennsylvania counties through the same partnership. The trees are used to plant new buffers, as was done in Shippensburg on Arbor Day, and to repair existing streamside buffers.

The same evening the Arbor Day trees were planted, CBF Watershed Restoration Program Manager Clair Ryan was in Nebraska accepting the national "Good Steward Award" from the Arbor Day Foundation. It was awarded for CBF's efforts in planting trees, adding buffers to streams, and improving water quality in the Commonwealth.

Just weeks before that, CBF Pennsylvania received the prestigious Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence for helping landowners plant thousands of trees, and reducing pollution of rivers and streams in the Commonwealth.

—B.J. Small, CBF Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator


Benefits of Soil Health Extend beyond Farm

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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Farmland in York County. Photo by John Pavoncello/York Dispatch.

Around the home and down on the farm, it's planting season. Prime time for digging in the dirt.

Gardeners are feeling the earth under foot and between their fingers. For farmers, the crop cycle is taking root with spring plantings.

Healthy soil is key to planting success and clean water.

As soil health improves, productivity increases. As soil health improves, it is better able to absorb rain and cycle nutrients, meaning less harmful runoff and cleaner, healthier water. It is an economic and environmental win-win.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania are polluted and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its clean water commitments.

Two of the top three sources of that pollution are agricultural and urban/suburban runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. So keeping the soil healthy and in place, are important factors in reducing pollution.

The down and dirty on soil, is that we don't always think of it as having health. But soil can be so much more than a vessel for short-term plant growth dependent solely on the amount of water and fertilizer it can hold. Healthy soil is a living ecosystem and host to organisms of all sizes.

Soil health is influenced by many factors, significant among them is what is planted into it, and the benefits returned to the soil.

Cover crops, including grasses and a mix of broadleaf plantings like clover, are planted on many farm fields after the harvest and allow the soil to absorb, retain, and recycle nutrients, especially nitrates. Cover crops also reduce runoff of phosphorus, as surface water and soil otherwise carry it into local waters.

Increasing organic matter in the soil through cover crops and conservation tillage can increase crop resilience to climate change because it retains water in times of drought, reduces runoff during heavy rains, and moderates soil temperatures in hot weather.

For every one percent increase in organic matter, soil can hold 16,500 gallons of additional water per acre. Cover crops also improve the physical properties of the soil, reducing the degree of surface-sealing and increasing the ability of water to infiltrate the soil, instead of wash over it.

A farmer's quote often repeated in our office is, "We don't have a runoff problem, we have an infiltration problem." It goes to the root of the matter. Improving soil's ability to retain and recycle water greatly reduces the problem of runoff.

No-till planting can reduce erosion by more than 80 percent, compared to deep plowing and crop rotation where crop residue is left in the field.

The benefits of soil health extend beyond the farm.

At home, mulching the lawn pays multiple dividends. Grass clippings provide nutrients and can be an alternative to chemical fertilizers. The cuttings can provide half of the nitrogen the lawn needs in a year.

Before adding any fertilizer to the lawn, homeowners should have their soil tested. Penn State Extension offices in every county sell simple test kits. The results indicate how much, if any, fertilizer or lime might be needed in order to obtain the right balance.

At home or on the farm, maintaining healthy soil that can absorb moisture and cycle nutrients for plant use, that stays anchored in place, plays a key role in reducing pollution that enters our rivers and streams.

That's the dirt on how Pennsylvania can get back on track toward cleaning up its waters.

Clean water is a legacy worth leaving future generations.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director


"Clean Water Counts" Is the Message at CBF Reception in York County

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Those who attended the reception shared their thoughts and ideas about how to address the 350 miles of York County rivers and streams that are polluted. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Concern for clean water in York County was at high tide when legislators, business leaders, and other guests gathered at the John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville for a reception sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Pennsylvania office. The restaurant on Front Street was the ideal setting for the event; its outdoor patio overlooking the lower Susquehanna River.

"It was wonderful to see such a large and diverse group of citizens and leaders gathered to talk about why clean water counts," said Harry Campbell, CBF executive director in Pennsylvania and emcee for the evening.

Since last summer, CBF has been conducting its "Clean Water Counts: York" campaign in York County, to raise awareness of local water quality issues and solutions, and to motivate residents to take action to reduce water pollution.

The 70 people who attended the reception came together to talk about the successes and challenges of addressing the 350 miles of York County rivers and streams that are polluted by agricultural and urban/suburban runoff.

At the reception, CBF President Will Baker commended partnerships within the county, and hailed York County as a proven leader in conservation. He noted that York County was the first county to adopt the "Clean Water Counts" resolution, and lauded efforts to clean up Codorus Creek, work by the conservation district, and the planning commission's progress in managing polluted runoff.

Wrightsville teenager Brynn Kelly explained why, to her, clean water is a big deal. She grew up near the river and became excited about clean water after a trip to CBF's Merrill Center. The high school senior at Lancaster Catholic High School has spoken publicly about the value of reducing pollution, and wrote a letter to Governor Tom Wolf urging him to clean up Pennsylvania's waterways. Kelly also serves as president of CBF's Pennsylvania Student Leadership Council.   

York County Planning Commission Director Felicia Dell offered insight as to how the board views and plans to address clean water challenges. She reminded the gathering that streams aren't bound by municipal boundaries, and that the commission is working to help municipalities collaborate on ways to reduce pollution.

Growing Greener Coalition Executive Director Andrew Heath said his group is looking for "champions" in the state House and Senate who would be willing to put together a Growing Greener III proposal that calls for revenue to pay for conservation efforts. He said Growing Greener funds would be spent primarily on improving water quality in Pennsylvania.

Heath also highlighted the "Clean Water Counts" statewide campaign that urges county commissioners to pass resolutions encouraging leaders in Harrisburg to make improving water quality a priority. He said 16 counties have passed resolutions and efforts will be renewed next month to enlist the remaining counties.

State Representative Stan Saylor offered one of the highlights of the evening in announcing that the York County delegation will introduce a House resolution to declare May as "Clean Water Counts Month." Rep. Saylor said the resolution is intended to outline the importance of clean water and the number of streams that need to be cleaned up in Pennsylvania.

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CBF President Will Baker, center, spends a moment at the York County reception, with state representatives Kristin Hill, left, and Stan Saylor, right. Photo by B.J. Small/CBF Staff.

Roughly 19,000 miles of river and streams in Pennsylvania are polluted.

Other York County legislators in attendance were state representatives Keith Gillespie, and Kristin Hill.

Conversations about clean water took place throughout the two-hour reception.

A group of teachers met with CBF education staff to discuss strategy and messaging. "We discussed how CBF can be the storyteller for the incredible students that teachers bring on our programs every day," said CBF Education Outreach Coordinator Allyson Ladley Gibson.

"We want to tell the story about that student who has trouble participates in class, but comes alive when you ask them to help untie the canoes, paddle the boat themselves, find macroinvertebrates that will tell us about water quality, and be responsible for their own team that day," she added. "That student may start a whole new path because of the day with CBF and go on to find new passions, a certain type of education, and a career."

Staff members from "Heroes on the Water," attended the reception to show their support for clean water efforts. The veterans support group provided equipment and guidance at CBF's "Veterans on the Susquehanna" event in Wrightsville last summer.

CBF President Will Baker also told those at the reception that, "Clean water is unifier in a time when so much divides us."

The message was made clear by those who attended—clean water counts in York County and across the Commonwealth.

— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator


Photo of the Week: Spring Has Sprung

FB7022 - Snow Geese at Lift-Off Spring MigrationSpring has literally sprung over the Northeast!

If there's ever a time to witness one of the most spectacular natural wonders, it's during the annual spring migration of snow geese and tundra swans that stopover at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Middle Creek is a vital tributary of the Susquehanna River that [plays an important part in] the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and its wildlife. HUGE flocks of snow geese have been returning early to this popular rest-stop on their way back throughout the Eastern Shore to their summer breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic.

—Dom J Manalo

Ensure that Dom J and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Video of the Week: Why We Do What We Do

For nearly 50 years, we have fought vigilantly for healthy rivers, clean streams, and a restored Chesapeake Bay. Watch this video, courtesy of Discovery Communications, to see just how far we've come. And learn why saving the Bay and its rivers and streams is so important to the health of our economy, communities, and way of life both here and across the globe.

 

With your help, we can finish the job and show the world that we can restore a national treasure like the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Please help us spread the Save the Bay message to your friends and family on social media. And thank you for joining us in what is perhaps the most important clean water movement of our time. 

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


This Week in the Watershed

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Adequate funding is imperative if states are to meet clean water commitments. Photo by Bradley Striebig.

In a climate when budgets are tight, and debt is mounting, investments in the future are often viewed as unattainable luxuries. Immediate demands are given priority. Shortsightedly, environmental conservation measures often fall victim to the budget ax.

Just a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania announced a new "reboot" to improve water quality in the Keystone State. This reboot, an acknowledgment that Pennsylvania is behind the ball on meeting its clean water commitments, focuses on increased compliance and funding. Details of the plan include increasing the number of farm inspections, accelerating the planting of streamside buffers, and addressing the challenges of polluted runoff from urban/suburban areas by updating permit requirements and implementation plans by local governments.

As we said when the plan was first announced, paying for implementation of the plan represents a funding challenge. However, investing in clean water pays dividends. Conservation practices not only improve water quality, but can improve farm production and herd health, reduce nuisance flooding in communities, improve hunting and fishing, beautify urban centers, and even clean the air. What's more, a 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing Pennsylvania's clean water plans will result in an increase in the value of natural benefits by $6.2 billion annually.

In light of the smart investment to clean the Keystone State's waters, we were disappointed to learn that Governor Tom Wolf's 2016-17 budget proposal lacks the funding to implement the new clean water Blueprint. With roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania damaged by pollution, the need for a strong investment is not a trivial matter. We will continue to fight for clean water throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and keep the pressure on Pennsylvania to meet its clean water commitments.

This Week in the Watershed: Funding Blunder, Toxic Waste, and Flooding Threats

  • A coalition of environmental groups is appealing a decision allowing two coal ash ponds to be drained into Chesapeake Bay tributaries. (Bay Journal)
  • Flooding is a constant threat faced by the Hampton Roads community. Turns out, natural infrastructure might be able to help. (WTKR—VA)
  • When considering responsible parties for toxic waste, chemical and energy companies are usually blamed. A new analysis, however, reveals another industry dumps more toxic pollution by volume into U.S. waters than any other industry. (Think Progress
  • On the heels of a recently announced "reboot" to improve water quality in the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's 2016-17 budget proposal lacks the funding to implement the new clean water Blueprint. Unless the Commonwealth invests more in clean water, Pennsylvania will not meet its clean water commitments. (CBF Press Release—PA)
  • The poultry industry has changed drastically according to one poultry farmer. And many of the changes are bad for local water quality. (Bay Journal News Service)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

February 16

  • Annapolis, MD: The inaugural Annapolis "Save the Bay Breakfast" will feature an update on the current State of the Bay and the hottest topics affecting the future of the Bay and its rivers and streams in this year's Maryland General Assembly session. We hope you will join us, and other fans and friends of the Bay, for good food for the body and mind. Click here to register!

February 18

  • Richmond, VA: Join the CBF Hampton Roads office for a special "Lobby Day" in the state capital. Participate in the legislative process from the inside out. Meet your representatives, see the delegation in session and committee, and raise your voice for water quality issues in your community. Interested? Contact Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964, ext. 3305.

February 25

  • Charlottesville, VA: Enjoy an intimate dinner to benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation with music provided by Michael Coleman and Butch Taylor. Savor Bold Rock Cider, Rappahannock Oysters, and live music before a seated dinner of freshly prepared wildfowl and game by Chef Tomas presented with a selection of Spanish wines. Proceeds from this event benefit CBF. Click here for more information and to buy tickets!
  • Richmond, VA: Enjoy tasty sweets and sweet knowledge at CBF's Desserts and Discussion, where we'll learn about different aspects of our local waterways! This month's topic is wetlands and their importance to water quality. Bring a dessert to share with the group and win a prize for the most delicious contribution! CBF will also provide coffee, tea, and other drinks. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


State Must Invest in Its New Clean Water Plan

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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The brook trout, which flourishes in clean, cold water Pennsylvania streams, stands to benefit tremendously if the Keystone State's new "reboot" succeeds. Photo by Neil Ever Osborne/iLCP.

Pennsylvania has unveiled a new strategy for cleaning up its polluted waterways, and it will take the necessary investments from leaders in Harrisburg, and a unified effort across the Commonwealth, for the plan to succeed.

While this "rebooted" effort establishes a framework for success, it is just the first chapter of a long story.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) acknowledged that it alone cannot provide and protect clean water as called for in the new plan.

The plan's success requires a comprehensive approach involving the farmers, businesses, and homeowners. Resources, leadership, and commitment from Governor Tom Wolf and the legislature are essential to get Pennsylvania back on track toward its clean water goals.

Of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams, and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County, 350 miles are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits. This came after more than 30 years of failed restoration commitments.

The states also made two-year milestone commitments to take specific actions to ensure progress toward reducing pollution. The goal is to implement 60 percent of practices to restore local water quality in the Commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, the state will not meet its 2017 goal, as acknowledged by DEP Secretary John Quigley.

Roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania have been damaged by pollution. Efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off-track by millions of pounds.

The new plan defines six immediate and longer-term actions designed to get Pennsylvania back on track.

The Commonwealth intends to significantly increase the number of farm inspections and establish a culture of compliance. At current DEP staffing levels, it would take almost 57 years for each farm to be inspected just once. The DEP will use conservation district staff and its own staff to accelerate its inspection rate to meet the EPA recommendation of inspecting 10 percent of farms annually. DEP inspected less than 2 percent of farms in 2014.

A voluntary farm survey, conducted by a partnership of agricultural entities, seeks to locate, quantify, and verify previously undocumented pollution reduction practices that have been put into place. The plan also establishes a Chesapeake Bay Office within the DEP in order to improve management focus and accountability.

The new plan also calls for accelerating the planting of streamside buffers, the most affordable solution for filtering and reducing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution.

The plan addresses the challenges of polluted runoff from urban/suburban areas, including updated permit requirements and implementation plans by local governments, and the development of innovative financing opportunities.

If this new plan has a weakness, it is in identifying sustainable funding sources. According to a Penn State study, it will cost nearly $380 million per year, or $3.8 billion over the next 10 years, to implement just the agricultural practices that would get Pennsylvania back on track to meet its clean water goals for 2025.

If Pennsylvania is to make progress in providing and protecting cleaner water, the Commonwealth must invest in the new plan, in Governor Wolf's 2016-17 budget and in the legislature's follow-through. A new Growing Greener initiative would be a down payment for such efforts, but more resources will be needed.

Investing in clean water pays dividends. Conservation practices not only improve water quality, but can improve farm production and herd health, reduce nuisance flooding in communities, improve hunting and fishing, beautify urban centers, and even clean the air.

A 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing Pennsylvania's clean water plans will result in an increase in the value of natural benefits by $6.2 billion annually.

Adequate funding and technical assistance are critical to the success of this plan. The Governor and legislature must step up and ensure that the Commonwealth lives up to the clean water commitments it made to fellow Pennsylvanians.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. Healthy families, strong communities, and a thriving economy depend on it.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


Cheers for Regional Stormwater Plan

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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Reducing polluted runoff dramatically improve the health of local waterways. Photo by Neil Everett Osborne/iLCP.

York County has again taken the initiative to address clean water issues. Based on support from residents, the county commissioners approved moving forward with a study of how to establish a stormwater authority.

York County would join about 1,500 communities in the United States that are taking more cost-effective steps to better fund and manage polluted runoff and nuisance flooding. This often occurs in developed areas such as malls, housing developments, roads, and parking lots.  In doing so, the county will help itself and the rest of Pennsylvania get back on track toward meeting clean water commitments.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits.

The goal is to implement 60 percent of pollution reduction practices to restore local water quality in the commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania will not meet its 2017 goal. Statewide, efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off track by millions of pounds.

About 350 miles of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

The commonwealth recently released its plan to "reboot" efforts to get Pennsylvania back on track, including addressing stormwater pollution.

Comprehensive stormwater management of the scale York County is considering offers three major advantages.  First, it allows communities to "start at the source" of the pollution problem, not just where it is showing its greatest impacts. Second, by working collaboratively communities can leverage expertise, equipment, and other resources to get the best results at the least cost. Third, pollution reduction practices that preserve and restore nature's ability to capture, filter, and infiltrate rain and snowmelt into the ground are often more effective and cost less than traditional practices. They also clean the air, reduce heating and cooling costs, and beautify communities.

With a countywide stormwater authority that addresses regular flooding from uncontrolled runoff that inflicts human, economic, and property damage, York County is again at the forefront of clean water efforts.

York County was the first county in the commonwealth to adopt the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "Clean Water Counts" resolution, calling on state officials to make clean water a top priority for the Keystone State.

York County residents are also participating in the CBF's "Clean Water Counts – York" effort, raising their voices through phone calls and signing a petition, asking Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators to support the commonwealth's new plan to reduce water pollution.

In the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation, the York County Regional Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan involves 43 municipalities to better reduce pollution at lower cost.

Earlier this year, the Planning Commission finalized a countywide watershed plan that analyzes strategies and targets the pollution-reducing practices most appropriately suited for York County. The primary goal of the plan is to aid municipalities, citizens, and businesses in determining how to most efficiently reduce pollution from urban and suburban runoff.

By taking the lead in collaborative stormwater management, York County continues to demonstrate that clean water counts. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations of York countians.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


Susquehanna River: By the Numbers

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The Susquehanna River is unquestionably the most important river in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. To grasp the Susquehanna's sheer size and significance, take a glance at the numbers in the infographic above. Not only is this vital waterway a critical economic resource and a bastion of cultural heritage in Pennsylvania, it also has a tremendous impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, with the Susquehanna providing half of the Bay's freshwater flows.

In light of the importance of the Susquehanna, the current health of the river is concerning. Agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and polluted urban runoff are threatening this powerful economic engine. A glaring example of this is the health of the smallmouth bass found in its waters. One of the most prized freshwater sport-fish species, the Susquehanna's smallmouth bass fishery once attracted anglers from all over the world. Pollution has taken a toll however, as various diseases have wreaked havoc on the smallmouth bass, with bass being found with lesions, sores, and abnormal sexual development in which males grow eggs in their testes. When smallmouth bass are diseased, weakened, or otherwise stressed, we know things aren’t right.

It's long past time for the Lower Susquehanna to be listed as impaired. This listing would designate the Susquehanna for additional study and new levels of investment in restoration. Stand with CBF and its partners in urging Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to save this vital waterway by listing the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Water Quality Plays Key Role in Return, Survival of Bald Eagles

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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A bald eagle snatching it's prey. Photo by Barbara Houston.

A new season of the Commonwealth's most popular, high-flying reality show is back online.

Millions are expected to log on to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) website and watch as live-streaming cameras show the drama of nature at several bald eagle nests in the Keystone State. The experiences open windows onto nature like never before.

People went online more than one and a-half million times last year to see a pair of bald eagles raise two eaglets in a nest near Codorus State Park. They saw the entire process, from "nestorations" in January, laying of the eggs in February, hatching in March, and the eaglets leaving the nest in June, as it happened. This is the tenth year for the nest and the second that cameras and microphones are there.

Another popular nest is in a Hackberry tree in the town of Hays, along the Monongahela River, near Pittsburgh. The camera and sound are sponsored by the Western PA Audubon Society. This is the third season a camera has watched the nest that eagles first used in 2013. Sadly, neither of the two eggs in the Hays nest were viable last year. But the year before, three eaglets thrived and successfully left the nest.

Those who lognon to the live cameras realize quickly that waterways play a key role in the lives of bald eagles and nesting sites are never far from water. Streams, lakes, and rivers are key habitat for bald eagles. In the winter, they congregate in tall trees near open water, to spot prey and shelter at night.

Fish make up almost 90 percent of a bald eagle's diet. Is there a more majestic sight than an eagle soaring and scanning open water, swooping gracefully downward, and then with their talons, plucking prey through the water's surface?

The Codorus eagles feed fish from Lake Marburg, Codorus Creek, and other York County waterways to their young ones. Bass from the Monongahela is often on the menu at the Hays nest.

So it's no secret that the survival and recovery of bald eagles in Pennsylvania are dependent on clean water, and the availability of healthy fish and other aquatic life. It is yet another reason we must make progress in restoring the 19,000 miles of waterways in Pennsylvania that are polluted. About 350 miles of waterways in York County are impaired.

The runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment is damaging our rivers and streams, and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its commitment to reduce polluted runoff.

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A screenshot of two bald eagles in their nest at Codorus State Park.

Also, consider findings of the latest multi-year study of the causes behind the deaths of young smallmouth bass, and lesions and spots on older smallmouths in the Susquehanna River. Some of those fish are served up in bald eagle nests throughout central Pennsylvania.

Endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, and pathogens and parasites, are the two most-likely causes of diseased and dying fish in the Susquehanna. They are part of a perfect storm of compounds such as cosmetics, detergents, pharmaceuticals, and hormones in animal and human waste, that find their way into the diets of bald eagles and other wildlife.

On the bright side, the resurgence of bald eagles nationally and in Pennsylvania is an endangered species success story.

Habitat destruction, contaminated food sources, and illegal shooting took bald eagles to the brink of extinction. The road to recovery took major turns when the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, and in 1978 when bald eagles were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

In 1980, there were only three known pairs of bald eagles nesting in Pennsylvania. Re-introduction began in the 1980's when the Game Commission brought 88 eaglets to the Commonwealth from Canada, raised them on specially constructed towers, and released them into the wild. Bald eagles were removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the lower 48 states in 2007.

By 2008 the number of nesting pairs in Pennsylvania had grown to 150. In 2013 there were nests in all but a handful of Keystone State counties and more than 270 nesting pairs.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations of humans and bald eagles.

Click here to access the Codorus cameras.

Click here to access the Hays camera.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Bald eagles, other critters, and humans alike, depend on the health of the Susquehanna River. Take action now by asking Governor Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection to add the Lower Susquehanna to the Impaired Waters List.