Pennsyvlania awards nearly $500K to three counties for stormwater planning

In assisting stormwater management plans in Blair, Cambria and Lycoming counties, State Department of Environmental Protection urges support for Growing Greener II to provide additional support for clean water..

HARRISBURG, PA, Feb. 2, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, the state's Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty awarded a total of $484,315 in stormwater planning and management grants to help Blair, Cambria and Lycoming counties prepare and update plans to enhance regional water quality and encourage smart growth.

"Water is a strategically important resource that can provide a competitive advantage in helping Pennsylvania to improve residents' quality of life and attract and retain businesses and jobs," McGinty said. "Stormwater management plans help communities create sound policies to ensure that development and upstream activity do not negatively affect our streams. It is essential that we continue to provide the funding necessary to protect our supply of fresh water while balancing the needs of business, the community and recreational users."

The Stormwater Management Act (Act 167 of 1978) requires counties to prepare or revise stormwater management plans for all watersheds in the county's jurisdiction. It also requires each municipality located in the watershed to implement the plan's recommendations through municipal codes and ordinances. DEP provides 75 percent of the costs that counties and municipalities incur in preparing, updating and implementing the plans.

The Blair County Planning Commission will receive $100,000 to update existing stormwater management plans for Altoona, Duncansville and Hollidaysburg boroughs, and Allegheny, Blair, Frankstown, Freedom, Juniata and Logan townships.

Cambria County will receive $234,315 to prepare a stormwater management plan for the Stony, Paint, Quemahoning, Bens and Shade creek watersheds. The purpose of the plan is to improve water quality, enhance groundwater recharge and ensure stream channel protections.

Lycoming County will receive $150,000 for enhanced stormwater management and planning along Lycoming Creek, one of the most flood-prone streams in Pennsylvania. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently is undertaking a new study of floodplains along the creek, and the county is working with landowners to limit development on floodplains within the watershed.

"Rain runs off roads, parking lots and even lawns instead of sinking into the groundwater as it does in natural areas," Secretary McGinty said. "Proper stormwater management addresses uncontrolled runoff and pollution issues, reducing flooding and replenishing groundwater supplies throughout the entire watershed."

Statewide, 47 counties have completed 86 watershed plans involving 797 municipalities. An additional 24 watershed plans and updates are being prepared and reviewed. To date, more than $13 million have been appropriated by the legislature for the stormwater grant assistance program. Municipalities and counties receive the funds as they submit invoices detailing completed work in preparing and updating the plans.

Stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of water quality impairment in Pennsylvania, and proper stormwater management is publicly recognized as a priority need in most regions of the Commonwealth. However, the $1.2 million currently appropriated to DEP to help municipalities address stormwater issues is no longer sufficient.

Secretary McGinty said that beginning next fiscal year, the appropriation will fall far short because of the number of plans already in the pipeline, those in the early stages of development and those federally mandated to be updated in the next five years. Annual deficits of at least $2.3 million are expected in fiscal years 2005-06 through 2008-09.

"This funding shortfall could have a serious effect on our ability to protect and maintain groundwater resources, preserve groundwater supplies, maintain stream base flows and protect, preserve and maintain the environmental integrity of Commonwealth waters," Secretary McGinty said.

Governor Rendell's $800 million bond initiative highlights the strategic importance that clean and healthy water resources have in protecting public health and ensuring that Pennsylvania remains economically competitive and environmentally attractive.

His plan to renew and expand the state's Growing Greener program proposes $80 million over four years to enhance the health of waterways by limiting nutrient loading and preventing non-point source pollution, and redirects an additional $21 million a year to the Environmental Stewardship Fund to invest in groups that successfully have revitalized communities, improved watersheds and protected the environment.

For more information on the stormwater planning and management grant program, visit DEP's Web site at www.dep.state.pa.us -- keyword: "Water Management."

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