William Penn Foundation 2015 Grants for Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster Projects

Watershed restoration projects along Wissahickon and Tookany Creeks are receiving funding under the second round of the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative. Awardees include the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, Upper Gwynedd Township, and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership.

Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF):

TTF received $129,850 for two projects on Jenkintown Creek. The first project will expand on Phase 1 restoration work already initiated along the Creek’s headwaters at Abington Friends School. The Phase 1 work (a riparian buffer and rain garden) will be supplemented by Phase 2 restoration including a bioretention area, meadow, buffer, stream bank stabilization, and a second rain garden below the Abington Monthly Meeting parking lot. The restoration work is being incorporated into the Friends’ School science curriculum and broader community watershed education.

Jenkintown Creek Riparian Plantings at Abington Friends School (PEC)

Jenkintown Creek Riparian Plantings at Abington Friends School (PEC)

TTF also received funding for stream bank restoration, buffer and vernal pool installation at McKinley Elementary School further downstream on Jenkintown Creek. TTF and partners are exploring additional projects along this Tacony Creek tributary on larger parcels (e.g. Alverthorpe Park and Abington Art Center) that offer both stream restoration and green infrastructure project opportunities. Monitoring and modeling by Temple and Villanova Universities is also being conducted to help demonstrate how restoration focused on a headwater reach can “move the needle” on water quality improvements.

Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA):

WVWA received $190,000 for a stream restoration project along the PECO Right of Way in the main-stem headwaters area of Wissahickon Creek. The grant award will be used to launch a flood plain reconnection project to address eroded stream banks and aquatic life impairments found in the stream reach. The goal of the project is to re-grade the stream to reconnect it to the flood plain, allowing for inundations that store/infiltrate water during high flow conditions. This Phase 1 funding will be used to create concept and construction drawings for the restoration of 4,300 linear feet of the creek including three flood plain connections/inundations, with more detailed design drawings and permit applications for approximately 1,800 linear feet within this reach.

Stream impairments in main-stem Wissahickon headwaters (by WVWA)

Stream impairments in main-stem Wissahickon headwaters (by WVWA)

Upper Gwynedd Township Projects:

Upper Gwynedd Township received funding to support 4 projects in the Wissahickon Creek headwaters area. Project summaries prepared by Gregory Duncan of T&M Associates, a Township consulting engineer, are as follows:

1-Riparian buffer restoration [Grannery Lane]

Project Concept & Description: Proposed along this township-owned property is riparian buffer restoration near Grannery Lane along the Wissahickon Creek.

Output measures: Water quality, habitat restoration

2-Bio-retention facility [Grannery Lane]

Project Concept & Description: This proposed project is in concert with the above riparian buffer restoration along Grannery Lane. It includes the construction of a bioretention area in-line with the Wissahickon Creek. Contributing drainage areas include adjacent residential development as well as roadway drainage.

Output measures: Water quality, volume control, rate control

3-Raingarden [Ivy Lane]

Project Concept & Description: This proposed project includes the construction of a raingarden near Ivy Lane along the Wissahickon Creek. Contributing drainage areas include adjacent residential development as well as roadway drainage.

Output measures: Water quality, volume control, rate control

4-Constructed Wetland [Sumneytown Pike]

Project Concept & Description: The proposed project includes the construction of a wetland near Sumneytown Pike along the Wissahickon Creek. Contributing drainage areas include residential development as well as roadway drainage.

Output measures: Water quality, volume control, rate control, habitat restoration

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Proposed PAG-13 Updates Leading Toward More Individual Permits

 PA DEP SW manual parking lot BMP photo 1Pervious parking lot with stone backup edge, PA BMP Manual

Proposed Updates to Pennsylvania General Permit (PAG-13) for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewers (MS4s) are pointing toward an increase in the number of municipalities requiring individual permits.

Current PAG-13 regulations require individual permits for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) municipalities discharging to “Special Protection” waters (that is, high quality or exceptional value waters). The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) proposed PAG-13 updates in May 2015; public comments submitted through August are now being reviewed. The proposed regulations will require individual permits for MS4 municipalities that have been assigned Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) waste load allocations (WLA’s) approved by EPA for sediment and/or nutrients. The proposed regulations also require pollutant reduction plans for MS4 municipalities with nutrient, sediment, PCB, and bacteria water quality impairments that do not yet have a TMDL.

PADEP published an MS4 Requirements Table that lists MS4 municipalities, water bodies with TMDLs, and where individual permits are required. Overall, more MS4 communities will be required to submit individual permits under the propose rule. Municipalities are encouraged to review the MS4 Requirements Table and identify any errors made regarding where they discharge stormwater.

Key differences between the individual and general permit programs are as follows:

• The individual permits cost more; there is an initial permit application fee plus an annual fee.

• There is more flexibility in the individual permit program. Municipalities have the option to propose alternative Minimum Control Measures (MCMs) that are at least as protective as the Appendix A MCM requirements defined by PADEP.

• Currently the Appendix A MCM requirements for individual and general permits are similar. The key difference is that the individual permit has anti-degradation requirements for special protection waters under MCMs 4 and 5.

• The proposed regulations require that municipalities with sediment and/or nutrient waste load allocations submit a TMDL plan as part of their individual permit. The TMDL Plan should be designed to achieve pollutant reductions that align with the municipalities waste load allocation requirements. PADEP provided draft Guidelines for how to create TMDL plans.

• Municipalities that discharge to impaired water bodies that do not yet have a TMDL can still apply for the general permit. But the newly proposed regulations require that these MS4 municipalities develop Pollutant Reduction Plans for sediment, nutrient, PCB, and bacteria impaired water bodies.  See the Appendices in Proposed PAG-13 for pollutant reduction plan requirements.

In summary, the proposed PADEP regulations will require more municipalities to apply for individual MS4 permits. Individual permits allow for more flexibility, but have higher costs. Municipalities should consider the new requirements for sediment and/or nutrient TMDL plans (for individual permits) and pollutant reduction plans (for general permits), and explore ways to collaborate with other municipalities on the development of more cost effective sub basin or watershed scale plans.

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Meet New Poquessing Monitoring Coordinator! Meghan Rogalus sits down and discusses watershed management within Bucks County.

Meghan Rogalus: Bucks County Watershed Specialist

Meghan Rogalus: Bucks County Watershed Specialist

For the June issue of the Watershed Alliance, Meghan Rogalus had the chance to sit down and share her role as the watershed specialist for the Bucks County Conservation District (BCCD). In addition she has recently taken on a new role as the Poquessing Creek Watershed Monitoring Coordinator.

We hear you have a new role as Poquessing Watershed Coordinator, what are you doing in the Poquessing?

The Poquessing Creek is located in the Upstream Philadelphia cluster of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), a project spearheaded by the William Penn Foundation. As the Poquessing Monitoring Coordinator, I am working with PEC, the Friends of the Poquessing Watershed (FOPW), and other cluster partners to ensure that the Poquessing completes the project requirements to collect water quality samples quarterly, macroinvertebrate samples annually and to engage the Poquessing Streamkeepers in visual monitoring of the watershed. Once restoration projects are completed we hope to see big improvements by comparing before and after water quality and macroinvertebrate community sampling up and downstream of project sites!

What is your role with the Poquessing Streamkeepers?
My role is to keep in touch with the Streamkeepers who are conducting visual monitoring at locations along the tributaries and main stem of the Poquessing and follow up where possible on issues they identify. The volunteers’ information is critical to obtain an overall impression of the health of the entire watershed. In addition I notify the volunteers of upcoming educational and work opportunities.

What else does a Conservation District Watershed Specialist do?
The duties of a Conservation District Watershed Specialist vary based on the needs/major sources of stream impairments within each county and the direction of each district’s board of directors. In general, the focus of the Watershed Specialist position is to improve the quality and quantity of the Commonwealth’s surface and groundwater resources through education and outreach, monitoring and implementation of restoration projects.

In Bucks County I provide technical assistance and information to individual residents, municipalities, nonprofits and school groups. A big focus of that is providing support and guidance to a number of watershed associations around the county and advising landowners on potential solutions and possible permit requirements for addressing streambank erosion. On behalf of BCCD, I apply and manage grant-funded environmentally beneficial projects. I also work closely with Mary Ellen Noonan, BCCD’s Environmental Educator, to support the district’s education and outreach efforts. Finally, I am the Bucks County point of contact for TreeVitalize Watersheds program, which provides funding for riparian forest restoration and basin naturalization projects throughout southeastern PA.

What environmental impacts are Bucks County watersheds facing?
The main environmental impacts facing Bucks County and the southeastern region are sedimentation of the stream channel and stormwater runoff due to increasing development pressures. Bucks County’s historic development patterns included infrastructure designed to move rainwater as quickly as possible away from houses to the nearest streams. This type of stormwater management results in “flashy” stream systems, which causes streambank erosion, impaired water quality and flooding concerns. Also, the removal of riparian vegetation and the threat of invasive plant species places additional stress. Streams lose protection from streambank erosion, are unable to filter pollutants and lack natural cooling and shading from natural riparian vegetation.

What can people do to help improve watersheds in their area?
There are a number of things people can do such as conserve water, capture and reuse rainwater with cisterns and rain barrels, reduce their use of fertilizers and pesticides and landscape with native plants. But the biggest thing anyone can do to improve their local watershed is to get involved! Volunteer sometime for environmental projects (e.g. stream monitoring, stream cleanups, tree planting), or better yet, take an active role on a board or committee of your local watershed association. Watershed organizations need people with diverse skill sets – even if one does not have an environmental background as long as the passion and commitment is there they can be a great asset.

What inspired you to work in this field?
As far back as I can remember I have spent my entire summer outside –playing in the dirt, canoeing in the Neshaminy Creek; which instilled in me a desire to protect the environment. In addition I have always enjoyed helping people.

I first focused on watershed management specifically as a potential career when completing a capstone project. I loved completing the field work and analysis, but the best part of all was seeing the community’s response and interest in me and my classmates’ recommendations. In 2008 I learned about the BCCD Watershed Specialist position opening and seemed like a natural fit for me; what better place to work than my native Bucks County!

Where is your favorite outdoor place to visit in Bucks County?
I love getting out to Nockamixon State Park, especially paddling in the lake! It is located in such a beautiful area of the county.

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Rain Garden Campaign Launched in Eastern Delaware County

Norwood2

Located in Norwood. These photos show the construction phase of a rain garden.Norwood3

Rain Gardens are an excellent way for residents, businesses, and municipalities to manage stormwater on their properties. Rain gardens slow and soak up runoff from roofs, driveways, and parking lots. They help keep streams clean, beautifying properties at the same time.

The Eastern Delaware County Stormwater Collaborative (Stormwater Collaborative) and Pennsylvania Resources Council are in the midst of an initiative to construct rain gardens on both public and private lands.  Spring 2015 educational workshops attracted 125 attendees interested in learning more about rain barrels, rain gardens, and other steps residents can take to help control stormwater runoff and pollution to our waterways.

The initiative includes funds for rain garden construction provided by the William Penn Foundation via a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, and additional funding from the Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Foundation and the Royal Bank of Canada as well as in-kind support in the form of staff time and equipment from the eight municipal members of the Stormwater Collaborative.

A framework was developed with the Haverford Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) to target residential homeowners interested in constructing a rain garden on their property. Properties were identified in the fall of 2014. Each prospective property was visited by the rain garden team that consists of members of the Haverford EAC, the Stormwater Collaborative, the Pennsylvania Resources Council and the Haverford Township Parks Department. Properties were analyzed for suitability based on location and soils.

Rain garden construction has started! The first two rain gardens were installed the weekend of May 18th including a public garden at the Norwood Fire House and a private garden for a Mill Road resident in Haverford Township. The June construction schedule includes a Sharon Hill Borough rain garden and three private rain gardens in Haverford Township. Additional fall 2015 and spring 2016 construction is planned to meet or surpass the initiative’s goal of 5 public and 10 private rain gardens.

MillRoad2

Participants in Mill Creek work on completing a rain garden.

The rain garden construction framework will be transferred to the other municipalities within the Collaborative to create a trained team of knowledgeable volunteers who can assist private homeowners in constructing rain gardens. The Haverford EAC is a key supporter with its own program to create 100 rain gardens in the Township over the next 10 years.

The rain garden initiative is a great opportunity to engage private citizens, municipal staff, and elected officials. It is providing an avenue to seed private and public rain gardens into the eight Stormwater Collaborative municipalities, which in turn can be used to leverage further expansion of the rain garden footprint.

The program also helps municipalities meet their stormwater permit requirements, and will also support new pollutant reduction plans (PRP’s) just proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which are expected to require mandatory reductions in pollution to our waterways beginning in 2017. The bottom line is cleaner and healthier streams, greener landscape features that attract birds and butterflies, and attractive new garden features which are quickly becoming a popular landscaping practice.

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Multi-Municipal Collaboration is in the Water (of Pennsylvania)!

As municipalities across the state grapple with water quality and stormwater management issues, efforts to work collectively are on the upswing. From Allegheny County’s Three River’s Wet Weather Initiative to the Eastern Delaware County Stormwater Collaborative, water resource managers recognize the benefits of working together to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve services.

Eastern-Delaware-County-Stormwater-Collaborative

Eastern Delaware County Municipalities Join Together to Better Control Stormwater.  From http://separcd.org/

Pennsylvania has 2,562 cities, townships, boroughs, while the PA Department of Environmental Protection lists 372 stormwater management watersheds under their Act 167 planning requirements. This demonstrates that one watershed can encompass many municipalities, and that collaboration leads to better management of shared watershed resources.

Municipal goals to reduce flooding, maintain clean water, and create healthier, greener communities, coupled with stricter water quality regulations, are prompting collaboration in many ways. Examples include:

York County Watershed Implementation Plan: Faced with the challenge of meeting Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution reduction requirements, York County municipalities grouped together under the leadership of the County Planning Commission. A pollution reduction plan was developed for County watersheds that identified the best opportunities for sediment and nutrient pollution reduction projects. Forty four municipalities agreed to contribute funding for priority stormwater, stream bank restoration, and riparian buffer projects. The County is now conducting a feasibility assessment for a county-wide stormwater authority that would help further fund project implementation. Learn more at York County Watershed Plan.

Eastern Delaware County Stormwater Collaborative: To help overcome technical and financial barriers to meeting stormwater and watershed management goals and requirements, a group of small and highly urbanized municipalities within the Darby-Cobbs Watershed organized under the Stormwater Collaborative. Among other things, the collaborative has hired a stormwater manager, created a common MS4 permit reporting system, conducted joint public education and outreach programs, and sought funding for stormwater management projects (see Rain Garden Campaign in Eastern Delaware County article). Read more about the Stormwater Collaborative here.

Christina River TMDL Implementation Partnership: With 32 municipalities facing sediment and nutrient reduction requirements, the Chester Water Resources Authority and Brandywine Valley Association developed a TMDL implementation plan which included templates for individual municipalities to submit their TMDL plans. The TMDL Plan used a watershed wide approach to identify regulated MS4 projects, agricultural best management practices (mix of regulatory and voluntary) and watershed conservation stakeholder projects (voluntary). The effort also includes promotion of multi-municipal public education, public involvement, and municipal training activities that support municipalities with their MS4 permit requirements. Learn more at Christina River TMDL Partnership.

Allegheny County Three River’s Wet Weather Initiative: The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority and the Allegheny County Health Department joined forces to create the 3 Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Program in 1998 to help the 83 Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) municipalities address the region’s sewage overflow problem including combined sanitary and storm sewers. Much of this effort is focused on multi-municipal projects, particularly those that include studies or activities that lead to sewer system consolidation. Read more at 3 Rivers Wet Weather.

The above examples are just a few of multi-municipal collaboration efforts occurring across the state and country. Collaboration helps municipalities improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and make smart decisions on how to achieve clean water and healthy watersheds goals.

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Estuary Science Summit – Balancing Progress and Protection – 10 Years of Science In Action

Municipalities and their partners work at the local level to create and maintain healthy communities.  From the environmental perspective this can range from park and greenway trail management to flood control and water quality improvement projects.

The January 2015 Delaware Estuary Science and Environmental Summit provided multiple insights into how these collective municipal actions are critical to protecting the health of the Delaware River and its Estuary.

Since 2005 the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) has organized the Summit every two years, capitalizing on the field downtime offered by late January weather to gather together scientists, educators and policy makers in Cape May, New Jersey.  While many area residents just catch glimpses of the estuary while crossing Delaware River bridges, PDE’s website reminds us that the Estuary:

  • Is a vital ecosystem, creating habitat for more than 130 species of finfish, as well as clams, oysters, and crabs,
  • Has the second largest concentration of migrating shorebirds in the Western Hemisphere, along with habitat for 15 different species of waterfowl, which total more than half-a-million individuals who either migrate through or spend the winter here, and
  • is home to the largest population of spawning horseshoe crabs in the world.

Talks and posters at the Science and Environmental Summit range from more technical scientific research findings to broader perspectives on policy and education and outreach programs.  Examples included:

  • Ecological restoration focusing on techniques and case studies for restoring living shorelines and wetlands.
  • Citizen and academic monitoring programs such as:
    • An upstream suburban Philadelphia watersheds citizen Streamkeeper program, summarized by Stephanie Figary of the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association.
    • Trends in PCBs in Delaware River fish and sediments near Philadelphia (PCBs concentrations are declining via efforts of TMDL pollutant minimization plans).
    • Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University’s monitoring of fish, algae, and macroinvertebrates to evaluate conservation and restoration practices across the Delaware River Watershed.
  • Education and outreach programs such as:
    • The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership’s use of both traditional and tech (social media) outreach tools
    • Partnership for Delaware Estuary’s inclusion of volunteers to map fresh water mussel populations.
    • Eastern Delaware County Stormwater Collaborative’s project that involves homeowners in rain garden projects.

You can visit PDE’s website to view all of the summit sessions and presentations.

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Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Research at Big Springs Run Documents Flood Plain Restoration Benefits That Can Help MS4 Permit Holders

Many Pennsylvania townships and other Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit holders are required to reduce sediment and nutrient loadings to streams flowing through their jurisdictions.  Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Research performed at the Big Springs Run flood plain restoration project documents the reductions in sediment and nutrient loadings that can be achieved by removing legacy sediments and restoring the original footprint of valley bottom streams and wetland complexes.

The Big Springs Run restoration project was initiated in 2011; monitoring data collected from 2004 to the present documents project impacts.  Visit http://www.bsr-project.org/ to view a rich depository of publications, journal articles, reports, fact sheets, and graphics presented by Franklin and Marshal College and their partners.  Background information is provided on the original research concept:

  • That legacy sediments deposited during the earlier colonial agricultural period on the Piedmont Plateau filled the valley floors, particularly behind the many mill pond dams constructed during that era.
  • As these dams are removed and/or degrade and as stormwater run off volumes increase due to more recent urbanization, excessive stream bank erosion occurs as the often many feet of legacy sediments and associated nutrients are washed back into waterways.

The Big Springs Run research suggests a way forward for reducing sediment and nutrient loading, and reaping additional ecological and economic benefits:

  • The legacy sediments themselves have an economic value as high-quality, nutrient-rich topsoil.  Ongoing research at Franklin and Marshall, in partnership with Lancaster Farmland Trust, is determining the market value of these excavated sediments, which could be used to offset costs of future legacy sediment removal projects.  As an example, the approximately 20,000 tons of legacy soil removed from Big Spring Run was sold for a brownfield renovation in the City of Lancaster.
  • Removing legacy sediment reduces rates of stream bank erosion; the Big Spring Run data shows the project is now capturing about 12 percent of total sediment coming into the system from upstream sources.
  • Nitrogen and phosphorous loadings associated with legacy sediments are reduced. Further reductions in reactive nitrogen (that can cause eutrophication) are gained through the interactions of plants and microbes in the restored landscape.
  • Restore the stream channel and associated wetlands to their original elevations, regaining flood storage capacity that can help reduce flooding issues.
  • The potential to uncover viable native plant seed banks that along with new restoration plantings can better compete with invasive species.  Several species of wetland plants have emerged at Big Spring Run that were not planted during the restoration process; the viability of buried seeds is one of several possible explanations.
  • Restore fish and wildlife habitat in the restored stream bed, wetland, and riparian areas.

The Big Spring Run project demonstrates that while the land we view today may be profoundly altered from pre-European settlement conditions, thoughtful restoration techniques may uncover multiple benefits for our own communities and our downstream neighbors and natural resources.  We recommend you spend some time on the http://www.bsr-project.org/ site to learn more about this project.

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