Five midstate counties targeted for Susquehanna River pollution

Written by Brett Sholtis/York Daily Record | Sep 14, 2016 8:41 AM

From left, Delta Waterfowl Foundation members Shawn Benner, Jason Sanderson and Todd Bergman load a boat with waterfowl decoys for a contest on the Susquehanna River. The river is a popular destination for boating, fishing and other recreational activities.(Photo: Chris Dunn, York Daily Record)

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation seeks $20m in federal funds for Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, Lancaster and York counties, to cut Susquehanna pollution.

(Undated) -- The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has targeted York County as one of four midstate counties that may receive several million in federal funding to help farmers cut pollution to the Susquehanna River.

The Annapolis, Maryland-based nonprofit ranked York County the second-greatest contributor to Susquehanna River pollution, behind Lancaster County. Franklin, Cumberland and Adams counties were third, fourth and fifth on the list, and would also stand to gain part of $20 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, said Will Baker, the foundation's president.

The Chesapeake Bay's ecosystem has been profoundly harmed by nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution, much of which comes from farming. Half of the bay's water comes from the Susquehanna River, and with it comes its pollution, Baker said.

The federal government has put the Chesapeake Bay on a plan to get cleaned up by 2025, Baker said. The plan calls for states to meet certain goals by 2017. Maryland and other states are on track to meet those goals, but Pennsylvania officials have said it will not meet its goals.

The foundation's plan would fund farmers' efforts to build riparian buffers, fences and other methods for keeping agricultural runoff out of the waterways.

In York County and elsewhere, there's a long waiting list for farmers to get assistance to install pollution-cutting technologies, said Harry Campbell, the foundation's executive director in Pennsylvania.

Tim Sauder, a Lancaster-based farmer who spoke on behalf of the foundation, said he's been trying to put up a cattle fence and install a barrier that would help to keep his agricultural runoff from entering a creek that flows through his property and into the Susquehanna.

"Farmers want to do the right thing for clean water, but we have real problems paying for it ourselves," Sauder said.

The foundation is calling on state and county governments to supplement that funding, Campbell said. However, he didn't know how much York County would be asked to contribute to the effort.

"Our analysis did not break down to that level of how much funding York County would have to provide," he said.

The county's cleanup effort would certainly benefit several million more dollars, said Felicia Dell, York County Planning Commission director. However, federal funds often come with strings attached that could pose challenges. Grants often require matching funds, and that may be money the county doesn't have.

"There's not a lot of free money out there," Dell said.

A haze hangs over the Route 462 Veterans Memorial Bridge north of the Susquehanna River in Wrightsville. The Susquehanna River's ecosystem is harmed by agricultural pollution and invasive species, two problems that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)


This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.


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