Pennsylvania Moves to Aid the Bay

ROBERT P. CASEY

June 07, 1993|By ROBERT P. CASEY

HARRISBURG — Harrisburg.--Pennsylvania recently took another step toward meeting the goals of the historic 1987 Chesapeake Bay agreement by enacting legislation that requires Pennsylvania farmers to develop nutrient-management plans to reduce agricultural pollution of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.

While Pennsylvania does not border the bay, we have a shared interest and responsibility with Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to ensure that this remarkable national treasure is not lost.

Each year, thousands of Pennsylvanians -- along with our neighbors in the other bay basin states -- make the Chesapeake Bay a family vacation destination for fishing, crabbing, sailing and other water sports.

But while we enjoy the benefits of this resource, we also recognize that we must be its steward.

Pennsylvania's part of the bay drainage basin contains more land than any other state and is home to 3 million people -- more than 25 percent of the total drainage basin population.

More than 120 million pounds of algae-feeding nitrogen and phosphorus flow past Pennsylvania's rich farmland and into the bay each year from the Susquehanna River, which provides 50 percent of the estuary's fresh water.

Pennsylvania's new nutrient-management law will curb the amount of nutrients that eventually reach the Chesapeake Bay from Pennsylvania farmland. The law will contribute to the state's goal of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus in the Susquehanna River watershed and our portion of the Potomac River drainage area by a total of more than 22 million pounds per year by the year 2000.

The new law requires farmers with more than 2,000 pounds of livestock or poultry for every acre of land to submit plans to manage their nutrients. These farmers will be required to improve the way they handle chemical fertilizers and animal and poultry manure so that excess nutrients don't make their way into waterways and groundwater. But, while the law contains mandates, it also provides technical, financial and educational assistance to help farmers comply with the new requirements.

Pennsylvania acknowledges that we have contributed to the problems of the bay, and that's why through our new nutrient-management law and other clean-water programs we're working to become part of the solution.

Through our Pennvest infrastructure investment program we've provided over $1 billion since 1988 to more than 700 communities to improve water and sewage treatment system.

We're helping farmers protect nearly 100 miles of streams through a waterway fencing program that stabilizes stream banks and reduces sediment pollution.

We're spending nearly $10 million in state funds to enable farmers in 28 Pennsylvania counties to reduce solid and nutrient runoff into the Susquehanna through methods such as contour strips, manure management and winter grass coverage.

And through aggressive environmental enforcement and cleanup programs we're cracking down with stiff fines and sanctions against those who foul our land and waterways.

Our success in gaining this new law can be attributed to working closely with agricultural, conservation and environmental groups, and others with a stake in the proposal. We knew that we had to devise a plan that balanced the needs of our agriculture -- Pennsylvania's largest industry -- and those of the environment and the Chesapeake Bay. While it took nearly five years of work, we have a law that has the support of all involved.

Pennsylvania farmers are pleased with this law because it is fair. It provides a level playing field where all farmers will be treated the same by preventing unfair local ordinances. What's more, the agricultural community will be represented at all phases of the development of the program.

Environmentalists and conservationists have endorsed the new law because it will significantly help us reach the goal of a 40 percent reduction of nutrients entering the bay as provided in the bay agreement.

The Pennsylvania Farmer's Association hailed the new law as the ''right way to clean up ground and surface water,'' and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation called the new law ''the most significant initiative Pennsylvania has taken to reduce pollution in the bay since it entered the bay program.''

I'm pleased that Pennsylvania is leading the way in controlling nutrient loading of the Chesapeake Bay, but so much more has to be done. I pledge that Pennsylvania will continue as full partners with Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia so that the Chesapeake Bay remains an important economic, environmental recreational and aesthetic resource for future generations.

Robert P. Casey is governor of Pennsylvania.

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