Chesapeake Bay Program
Due to recent changes in the PA DEP Chesapeake Bay Program, the highlighted watersheds of the county (outlined in the accompanying map) have become a greater focus for the Conservation District. As we begin to ensure farms have their required Conservation/Ag E&S Plans and/or Nutrient/Manure Management Plans, we will also continue to help farmers implement best management practices (BMPs).These practices may include large projects such as manure storages, stream buffers, and terrace systems. Although, initial BMPs such as no-till, cover crop, and contour farming demonstrate the greatest reduction in soil and nutrient loss while proving the greatest return in financial investment for the individual farmer/operator.
Chester County's region of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed is comprised of the following six sub-watersheds: the Big Elk Creek, Conestoga Creek, Little Elk Creek, Northeast Creek, Octoraro Creek, and Pequea Creek.
This area is roughly 126 square miles and is home to approximately 700 agricultural operations. Due to the density of farms, 95% of the streams within the watershed are rated as “impaired" by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. These impairments include pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment. Chester County Conservation District (CCCD) has committed to reducing these in order to improve water quality of local streams, as well as the Chesapeake Bay.
The CCCD's dedication to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay began in 1985 when it signed a delegation agreement to become one of the six original Pennsylvania counties to participate in the Chesapeake Bay Program. Through this program, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been provided to farmers in the Bay region of the county to implement cover crops, no-till establishment, grassed waterways, terraces, stream crossings, streambank fencing, and other best management practices (BMPs). Additional programs within the region have historically included Growing Greener, PennVest, and EQIP. See the “Project Assistance” tab for more information on funding and technical assistance opportunities for your farm.
At CCCD, technical assistance and design services are free.
We can provide:
- Field contours
- Maps of your farm (e.g., satellite imagery, soil types, field acreage, topography)
- Engineering consultations and project cost estimates
- Surveys and designs of BMPs (e.g., terraces, manure storages, concrete barnyards, etc.)
The CCCD can also assist you with seeking funds to install your planned BMPs. Funding sources typically include:
A. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
B. Farm Service Agency (FSA) Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
C. NEW IN FALL 2018: NRCS Resource Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
Under this program CCCD and its partners will address a surplus in EQIP applicants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, by working closely with NRCS and private agricultural consultants to develop plans and install conservation practices. As part of the RCPP ranking process, applicants will be given a higher score based on their willingness to implement or maintain a stream buffer, and commitment to work with one or more designated partners to develop plans and/or BMPs.
2. State — DEP Chesapeake Bay Special Projects
This program is available on a biennial basis and is exclusive for landowners in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. It operates similarly to EQIP and RCPP in terms of BMPs covered and their payment rates, but tends to be less competitive because projects are not ranked against each other.. If you would like to inquire about this program please contact: Paige LaDuca at 610-925-4920 ext. 118.
3. Miscellaneous Sources — Please contact a District representative to inquire about additional opportunities:
A. Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP): a tax credit program available for farm equipment and recently installed BMPs.
B. Stroud Water Research Center’s recurring programs.
C. Agricultural Planning Reimbursement Program: currently in renewal process.
Since July of 2016, staff from the Chester County Conservation District (CCCD) and the Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Regional Office (DEP SERO) have been conducting inspections on farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed of Chester County. As mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) these inspections are checking on the status and availability of written agricultural plans and implementation of these plans. These plans include, at a minimum:
Chapter 91 Manure Management Plans – for all operations that either generate or land apply manure. This includes all operations from the single horse owner to the large pullet houses.
Chapter 102 Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plans – for all operations with at least 5,000 square feet of cropland or Animal Heavy Use Areas (AHUA – sometimes also referred to as an Animal Concentration Area (ACA)).
Owners/operators who do not have plans are required to obtain these plans within a certain time period or face referral to DEP for follow-up. However, the CCCD is available to help write Manure Management Plans and provide resources to address erosion and sediment plans and/or concerns.
A recent assessment by The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has determined pollution levels, habitat, and fisheries are improving in the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, conditions were found to be the best they have been in the past 18 years. Nitrogen and phosphorus levels are decreasing, habitat-providing underwater grasses are recovering, and populations of blue crab and oysters are increasing. Progress in the control of nutrient and sediment-laden runoff from agricultural, residential, and urban surfaces could be the cause of the improvements, demonstrating the importance the implementation of Best Management Practices across our landscape. With approximately 700 farms comprising the Bay-region of Chester County, it is largely up to farmers to continue making progress to improve water quality. (Source: The Chesapeake Bay Foundation: http://www.cbf.org/.)