Penn. awards $5.5M in 'Growing Greener' grants for watershed protection

On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today announced that DEP has awarded $5.5 million in Growing Greener grants to help local conservation organizations finance continuing efforts to clean up watersheds, enhance environmental protection and revitalize communities across Pennsylvania...

Nov 5th, 2004

HARRISBURG, PA, Nov. 4, 2004 (PRNewswire) -- On behalf of Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today announced that DEP has awarded $5.5 million in Growing Greener grants to help local conservation organizations finance continuing efforts to clean up watersheds, enhance environmental protection and revitalize communities across Pennsylvania.

The grant total is down significantly from previous years. Many watershed groups were turned down or had their grants substantially reduced because the Governor's $800 million bond initiative to expand and enhance Growing Greener has not been passed by the Legislature.

"DEP has repeatedly testified and the Governor has warned that failing to support Growing Greener II would mean devastating cuts for watershed groups throughout the Commonwealth," Secretary McGinty said. "The fact of the matter is that without additional resources, prospects for the future are grim: DEP's Growing Greener is a program in trouble. This recent and very disappointing grant award is proof. It is simply imperative that the Governor's initiative be taken up and passed as quickly as possible."

Secretary McGinty stressed that more grants would have been awarded and dozens of grants would have received substantially more funding if the Governor's plan to expand and enhance Growing Greener had been passed. DEP received nearly 450 applications for watershed restoration and protection projects.

Along with Growing Greener, DEP also announced Clean Water and Mineral Resources grants and contracts. The breakdown includes: $5.5 million in Growing Greener grants; $3.7 million in Nonpoint Source Implementation Program Grants, funded through Section 319(h) of the Federal Clean Water Act; $5.9 million from the federal Office of Surface Mining; $2.6 million from the Orphan Oil and Gas Well Plugging Fund and the Abandoned Well Plugging Fund; and $1 million in Watershed Contracts.

DEP's Growing Greener program also provides the Commonwealth's required state match for the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. This year, $5 million will be made available to Pennsylvania farmers to participate in this program. The Secretary made the CREP announcement in August during Ag Progress Days, the state's largest outdoor agricultural exposition. (See previous release on the DEP website.)

DEP also supports the county conservation districts through Growing Greener. This year, $3.9 million is provided to 64 conservation district watershed specialist positions throughout the state. The Secretary announced these grants in July during a tour of the Hick's Creek Watershed in Luzerne County. DEP announces this money early because districts need to know if they are getting grants, which are critical to the continued employment of watershed staff who help local groups protect and improve their watersheds, provide expert advice to farmers and landowners for conservation practices, work with DEP regional watershed coordinators on all proposals and projects, and help support local Growing Greener projects in their counties. (See previous release at the
DEP website.)

The grants will facilitate environmental improvements that include the plugging of 344 wells; reclamation of 250 acres of abandoned mines; creation or restoration of 21 acres of wetlands; improvement of 15 miles of streams impacted by nonpoint source pollution; planting of 12 miles of riparian buffer; enhancements to 15 miles of stream banks; and formation of three new watershed groups.

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