Archive for the ‘Legislative’ Category
Impact Fee Funding Aids Districts: Elk Conservation District Now Able to Secure Resource Conservation Technician
In Elk County, District Manager Steve Putt, said “Without the Act 13-Impact Fee money, we could not have fully funded the Resource Conservation Technician position in the district. By adding this new position to the district, we will greatly improve our ability to complete projects and tasks more timely, support more individuals in need of technical assistance and better serve our overall community.”
The district recently began advertising for a Resource Conservation Technician who would assist with Chapter 102 and 105 activities as well as increase the district’s education and outreach efforts in the surrounding communities. Ultimately, the creation of this position will allow the district to develop stronger working relationships with local farmers as they work to reconnect with the agricultural roots of the county.
Currently, the district’s technical staff includes the district manager and a watershed specialist. The addition of the Resource Conservation Technician will provide support to their operation and further their reach throughout Elk County communities.
They also hope to utilize some of the funds to complete some on-going projects such as water monitoring procedures; stream and forest restoration improvements; acid precipitation and mine reclamation efforts; and stream public access routes.
If any other districts have stories they’d like to share regarding how the Impact Fee funding is helping their district’s efforts, please contact Brandi Hunter-Davenport at email@example.com or Shannon Wehinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to the Elk Conservation District! A follow up story with the new Resource Conservation Technician will appear in a future edition of Front Page!
In Pennsylvania, there are more than 184,000 acres of abandoned mine lands, with some 4,000 miles of rivers and streams no longer biologically viable due to mine pollution.
This past July, the new federal Surface Transportation Bill was signed into law. When signed, the bill included a provision [to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA)], which would reduce the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Funding to Pennsylvania as well as various other states. Several groups, including the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts (PACD), have voiced their concerns with the SMCRA provision [in the new law] and how it will negatively impact abandoned mine reclamation work.
“The funding Pennsylvania receives now isn’t enough to clean up the abandoned mine drainage problem,” said PACD Executive Director Robert Maiden, who was advocating for an amendment to the newly enacted law while attending meetings in Washington D.C. last week. “PACD wants to ensure that each of the Conservation Districts is able to continue to do the work needed to maintain clean water and healthy streams. We just can’t afford to lose any funding.”
PACD will continue to make an M-PACT for the Conservation Districts by advocating for an amendment that reverses the funding cuts to this critical revenue stream.
“Agriculture supports our daily lives,” said Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts (PACD) Executive Director Robert Maiden, who attended the rally. “A long-term investment in our natural resources is the key to a sustainable future. We need to have a Farm Bill passed now.”
The United State Senate passed a bipartisan five-year farm bill over the summer. If the current law expires at the end of September without any type of action, the bill would revert to the 1949 version of the law. For more information about the Farm Bill, visit www.FarmBillNow.com.
Testimony of MaryAnn Warren before the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and the House Finance Committee
Testimony of MaryAnn Warren
President, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts
before the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee
and the House Finance Committee
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Chairman Hutchinson, Chairman Benninghoff, Representative George, Representative Mundy and distinguished members of both committees, it is an honor for me to appear before you today. As you are aware, the county conservation districts in Pennsylvania play an essential part in the protection of not only the environment and its natural resources, but your constituents and the local economies that serve your communities.
Everyday, we take for granted our water resources. We are fortunate to live in a state where laws have been passed, regulations put in place and rules implemented to make sure that our water is clean to drink and readily available.
Pennsylvania’s abundance of water resources provide an exceptional quality of life for our residents, an opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts, an attraction for visitors, unparalleled natural beauty, thriving ecosystems, agricultural prominence and economic prosperity throughout the Commonwealth. But this great fortune can also come with a price. Flood waters, as witnessed by the 2011 floods, can be destructive and devastating. Water can wreak havoc on homeowners, businesses and entire communities when flood prevention measures are overcome by an unrelenting mother nature.
So, what do the conservation districts have to do with flood events that occur across Pennsylvania? Everything. From flood mitigation and monitoring, to prevention, to services provided by the districts to assist the landowners and communities quickly get back on their feet following this type of natural disaster. The county conservation districts take proactive steps to help mitigate flooding where possible, through innovative projects and education.
Prevention takes on many forms as it relates to the county conservation districts and their crucial role in the protection of our resources, livelihoods and citizens from flooding in small streams throughout the Commonwealth. From education and awareness to providing creative solutions, the county conservation districts serve as the county’s and the Commonwealth’s first line of defense in minimizing severe flood damage.
While the districts cannot prevent serious weather conditions and the damage that it brings, they can and do allocate resources and man-hours to reduce the destruction done to the environment from flooding and other natural disasters. One of those ways is through stream improvement projects. These projects, often focused on small streams and provided with funding from the Growing Greener grant program, can range from streambank stabilization, installation of buffers and stream channel improvements. The Growing Greener grants, last year totaling $3.4 million, were directed specifically to watershed protection projects primarily in small streams for both flood control and to improve the quality of the streams. In fact, the districts administer and implement approximately 33 percent of the total Growing Greener grants awarded each year, which support and protect your communities.
When we think about the devastation brought about by flooding, we often think of the damage caused to homes, businesses and utilities, but what about Pennsylvania’s valuable agricultural industry? The crops? The land? The livestock?
Members of our Association were quick to respond to the 2011 flooding caused in areas throughout the Commonwealth. Our membership was called upon to help our agricultural industry move quickly in the aftermath of the storm. As always, our members respectfully responded, promptly assembled and were en route to provide their expertise and resources where needed.
Policy and Regulation Recommendations:
Up to this point, we’ve discussed how conservation districts have responded to flooding events and other stream related issues. Now, I’d like to share responses from a survey we provided to our membership as an effort to provide feedback to help expedite the process and make it more efficient. Suggestions included:
- Districts should have the authority to issue emergency permits, as well as the authority for debris and stream emergency permits;
- Districts should be on the County emergency services’ list serves to get the most current and up-to-date information.
- Districts should automatically be part of any emergency response with PEMA in all counties to look at stream damage, document agricultural/crop loss and floodplain management. As it currently stands, some districts are in the loop and some are not.
- Farmland restoration should be a priority with emergency response coordinators.
- Emergency plans should be in place for animals lost due to natural disasters, i.e. what to do with the carcass following these disasters.
- As preventative measures, emphasis should be given to environmental managing of streams, addressing streambank erosion which is a source of sediment, and minimizing blockages of the stream to help alleviate future flooding. After a stream channel is stabilized, riparian planting can be effective.
- Even though Counties are required to have Act 167 Stormwater Management Plans, many do not, which increases the likelihood of flood damage.
The following are a list of funding recommendations for the consideration of your committees:
- As a preventative measure, funding should focus on the environmental managing of streams, addressing streambank erosion through funding Growing Greener and/ or creating other funding mechanisms to fund streambank stabilization.
- Create a funding mechanism to correct blockages in streams that occur after a flooding event, greatly alleviating future flooding. As an example, we point to Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding from NRCS. A funding source should already be in place, ready to access, instead of the need to enact legislation after the flooding event as we recently witnessed.
- Provide funds for counties to initiate or complete their Act 167 Stormwater Management Plans.
- Fund innovative stormwater ideas that protect landowners and businesses while protecting the environment through the creation of a small grant program specifically for stormwater projects.
- Continue to support your conservation districts yearly budget line-item. The districts are your first line of defense when it comes to flood mitigation and then your first responders after the flood event.
In addition to sharing with you, we have provided this list of suggestions to our partners at the DEP, PEMA, FEMA and PDA. We respectfully ask that you would give priority to these recommendations.
In conclusion, for more than six decades the county conservation districts have provided leadership, skill, expertise and advocacy on the premise that protecting our natural resources now will provide for long-term sustainability, for not only our families and communities, but for our economy as well. When disaster strikes, our districts are prepared and ready to be deployed wherever deemed necessary to provide the greatest support. But before that disaster strikes, our districts continue to provide education and technical support to help lessen damage to our communities, businesses, homes and environment.
Our county officials and local governments call upon our conservation districts daily for assistance, guidance and their technical expertise. Our members are trusted entities within the county and go above and beyond to serve communities within their counties and protect our natural resources. Our assistance with flood emergencies is just one more example of the conservation districts’ dedication and commitment to fulfilling our mission.