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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Pennsylvania (Section 319I - 1994)

Pennsylvania's Nonpoint Source Assessment Report lists resource extraction, exploration, and development; agriculture; land disposal; urban runoff; and waste storage and storage tank leaks as the most significant NPS problems. Prevention programs vary but typically include accepted best management practices, educational programs, and enforcement remedies for noncompliance.

Phosphorus Reduction Program Accomplishes Initial Goals

With phosphorus loading identified as a key cause of degradation in fresh water lakes--especially in Lake Erie-- Pennsylvania decided to undertake a phosphorus reduction program using a section 319 grant. The Erie County Conservation District (Erie CD) has long been concerned about phosphorus loads in Lake Erie caused by agricultural activities. In 1985, Erie CD surveyed farmers in the Lake Erie watershed about their cropping practices and fertilizer use. A water quality agreement, signed by the United States and Canada, calls for a 25 percent reduction in phosphorus loading to Lake Erie over five years.

The first phase of the phosphorus reduction program, funded by a $75,000 section 319 grant, extended from April 1990 through September 1991. In coordination with other agencies, Erie CD used the grant to introduce and adopt a variety of best management practices.

BMPs were numerous--animal husbandry control measures, crop residue management, conservation tillage, no-till farming, winter cover crops, crop rotation, and strip cropping. They also included vegetated buffer strips along stream and ditch banks, stream bank fencing, contour diversions, flow control structures, grassed waterways, and sedimentation basins. Livestock manure storage facilities and the development of nutrient management plans were also adopted. In addition, Erie CD developed a database to monitor and record all accomplishments, produced an educational video, and held news conferences, informal meetings, and demonstration days at participating farms. Some 26 BMPs were implemented on 460 acres at a construction cost of $69,204. The state estimates that 578 tons of soil and 2,263 pounds of phosphorus are being saved each year (Fig. 3-1).

Another section 319 grant is funding Phase II of the phosphorus reduction program--"innovative" BMPs. This phase attacks long-standing problems on dairy farms in the Elk Creek watershed, ranging from barnroof runoff to manure leachate to milkhouse effluent. In many cases, this runoff was flowing directly into tributaries of Lake Erie.

The improvement from innovative BMPs was immediately apparent. Cleaner barnyards and fresher water improved milk production and reduced instances of cattle disease. Polluted runoff in streams was, in large measure, abated. Success rates on farms have been encouraging and Erie CD continues to attract farmers to the program. Other water quality projects are in progress or planned. Education and demonstration are also part of Phase II, including a conference, field days, and educational literature for public distribution. Erie CD will also rent a no-till drill for farmers' use. For eight years, Erie CD has maintained the momentum of the Lake Erie Phosphorus Reduction program. Section 319 has funded BMPs that will serve as examples for years to come.

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