$17.9 Million Available for Community Water Quality Improvement

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HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced that $17.9 million in Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management grant funds is available to organizations and governments to reduce nonpoint source pollution in their local streams, rivers, and lakes.

“Nonpoint source water pollution is a challenge virtually as big as Pennsylvania, but we make progress by supporting local projects by many organizations and municipalities,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Bringing together substantial community knowledge, expertise, partners, and leg work, local projects are the front line in restoring the health of our waters statewide.”

According to the draft 2022 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Report, 27,873 miles of streams and rivers statewide are impaired for one or more of four uses: drinking water, aquatic life, fish consumption, and recreation. Approximately 97 percent of the impairment is from nonpoint source pollution, that is, water pollution that comes from multiple sources rather than a single specific discharge point.

Nonpoint source pollutants include nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment from agricultural and urban and suburban land use, as well as iron, aluminum, and acidity from energy resource extraction and acid mine drainage. DEP Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 grants fund projects that reduce these pollutants or address emerging challenges, such as climate change, harmful algal blooms, and PFAS.

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Nonprofits, incorporated watershed associations, local governments, municipal authorities, county planning commissions, county conservation districts, councils of government, and educational institutions may apply for funding.

Preference is given to projects in environmental justice areas; in municipalities complying with Pa. Code Title 12, Chapter 113, and the Floodplain Management Act; and in counties with a DEP-approved Stormwater Management Act (Act 167) plan.

DEP Growing Greener Plus has an anticipated $13 million in grant funds available. Priorities include:

  • Recommendations in Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan 2021 for best management practices, such as no-till farming, streambank forest buffers, and green infrastructure, that reduce stormwater runoff, enable stormwater filtration into the soil, and assist in future flood prevention;
  • A new “Watershed Renaissance” initiative to spur complete implementation of existing watershed plans on small catchment areas in Centre, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Snyder, and Union counties that are identified as agriculturally impaired in the draft 2022 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Report.

“Growing Greener is Pennsylvania’s best known grant program for environmental improvement projects. It’s relied on by many communities that value the quality of life, economic, and resiliency benefits that come from a strong natural ecosystem, and are working to sustain this amid growing pressures from human land use and climate change,” said Secretary McDonnell.

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Growing Greener was established by law in 1999 and re-established in 2002. In February, Governor Tom Wolf proposed a $450 million Growing Greener III initiative that, if passed by the General Assembly, would help improve Pennsylvanians’ quality of life and make Pennsylvania’s communities and economy better able to withstand more frequent extreme weather events caused by climate change.

Currently unspent federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 would be targeted to accelerate farmers’ efforts to protect soil and water resources, increase farmland preservation, protect open space, improve maintenance of state parks, clean up abandoned mines, restore watersheds, increase trails and parks, help communities address land use, and provide new and upgraded water and sewer systems.

Since 1999, the DEP Growing Greener Plus program has supported more than 2,600 water quality improvement projects by organizations and governments statewide with over $372 million in grants.

The program is funded by the state Environmental Stewardship Fund and Acid Mine Drainage Set-Aside Program and the federal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act. Growing Greener III would add $180 million to DEP Growing Greener Plus.

The DEP Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management program has approximately $4.9 million in grant funding available. Funding supports 39 watershed implementation plans for impaired watersheds around the state and development of new watershed implementation plans for other impaired watersheds in environmental justice areas.

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Since 1999, the Section 319 program has provided more than $69 million to support over 400 projects in dozens of counties. The program is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through Section 319(h) of the federal Water Pollution Control Act.

Applications for both Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 grants must be submitted online through the Commonwealth’s Electronic Single Application website. The application deadline for both programs is 5:00 PM Friday, June 24, 2022.

Instructions may be found at Growing Greener Plus and Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Grants. Information on all DEP funding programs may be found on the DEP Grants website.

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