Sunday, September 20, 2015

Grants Will Help Protect Schuylkill Water Quality

Silas Chamberlin, executive director of the Schuylkill River

Heritage Area, announces this year's grant recipients.
Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area.

The Schuylkill River Heritage Area distributed grants totaling $274,623 Thursday to nine projects aimed at improving water quality in the Schuylkill River and its tributaries.

The Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grants were awarded to six projects that will focus on stormwater runoff, abandoned mine drainage and agricultural pollution. Also awarded were three land transaction grants that will assist with protection of a priority watershed parcel.

Locally, those projects include: 
  • Montgomery County Conservation District, Perkiomen Township Basin: $30,000
    This project will retrofit an existing stormwater basin in Collegeville, Perkiomen Township. The project will implement stormwater Best Management Practices totaling 12,000 sq/ft and utilizing more than 3,000 native plants. Additionally, hundreds of residents will be educated directly through volunteer workdays and a resident workshop.
  • Berks County Conservancy, Gehris Property: $4,000
    The Berks County Conservancy, in partnership with the Pine Creek Valley Watershed Association, will complete the fee simple purchase of the Gehris property in the Oley Hills of Berks County. This 51.18 acre parcel will go under conservation easement.
  • Natural Lands Trust, Yoder Tract: $4,000
    Natural Lands Trust will purchase a 35 acre riparian easement of the Yoder tract located in Warwick Township, Chester County. This property is located on the headwaters of French Creek which is a designated Exceptional Value Stream and is connected to an additional 114 acre agricultural easement property receiving permanent protection.
The grant fund is administered by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. This year, funds were provided by Exelon Generation’s Limerick Generating Station, the Philadelphia Water Department, The Coca Cola Company, Aqua PA and MOM’s Organic Market. 

About 35 people attended the award announcement, which took place at the Rice Farm in Kempton, the site of a recently completed agricultural improvement project funded through an earlier Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grant. That project included installing manure storage tanks and stormwater controls aimed at keeping manure and other nutrients from leaching into groundwater and being washed into streams.

Speakers included Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Silas Chamberlin, Delaware River Basin Commission Executive Director Steve Tambini, as well as representatives from the Philadelphia Water Department, The Coca-Cola Company and Exelon Generation’s Limerick Generating Station.

“The Schuylkill River Restoration Fund has become a model for the ways in which the non-profit, government, and private sectors can work together to improve water quality,” said Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Silas Chamberlin. “Over the past ten years, we have distributed over $2.5 million — and leveraged another $2.5 million — for 73 projects that protect and restore the Schuylkill River for recreational use and as a source of drinking water for 1.5 million people.”

Grant recipients were carefully selected by an advisory committee consisting of: Exelon Generation, Delaware River Basin Commission, Philadelphia Water Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Schuylkill River Heritage Area, Aqua PA, The Coca Cola Company and the Schuylkill Action Network.

“The health of our watersheds is the result of planning, policies, and projects at every scale,” said Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Executive Director Steve Tambini. “Today is about conservation leadership at the local project level. On behalf of the DRBC, I am pleased to be here with our partners to announce local grants for six projects and three land conservation transactions which will improve the water quality in the Schuylkill River and its tributaries.”

This year, fund donations came from Exelon Generation ($186,292), Philadelphia Water Department ($100,000), The Coca Cola Company ($25,000), Aqua PA ($7,500) and MOM’s Organic Market ($1,000). Any funds not distributed this year will be rolled over into 2016.

The Land Transaction Assistance Grants program, introduced three years ago, provides grants of up to $4,000 per project to pay for costs associated with property purchases and conservation easements on high priority lands for water quality and habitat protection.

Exelon has provided over $2 million to the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund since it was founded in 2006; the Philadelphia Water Department has contributed $600,000. Aqua PA has donated over $15,000 and MOM’s Organic Market over $1,700.

For the past several years, the fund has attracted new contributors. MOM’s Organic Market began contributing last year, and The Coca Cola Company joined this year with a first time donation of $25,000. The Schuylkill River Heritage area and the Schuylkill Action Network continue to seek additional contributors to further expand the fund.

The fund was originally created under a Delaware River Basin Commission docket approved in 2004 and Exelon Generation’s desire to support restoration efforts in the Schuylkill River and its tributaries.

The Philadelphia Water Department’s contribution to the fund is leveraged by other watershed partners and is directed towards addressing stormwater management and pollution mitigation projects upstream of the City’s two drinking water intakes on the Schuylkill River.

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