Schuylkill Action Network hosted a free restoration project tour Sept. 7 with visits to three watershed project sites.
The group toured Silver Creek Treatment Site, an abandoned mine discharge treatment site in New Philadelphia; B.A.D. Farm in Kempton owned by Beth and David Rice (the farm’s name is the owners’ initials); and the Marty Nothstein property in Port Clinton.
During the tour at B.A.D. Farm, David explained that while their operation is not organic, it is as natural as possible.
“We are 100 percent no till. We use cover crops,” said David. “With the no-till system with our hills we have very little erosion.”
The 300-acre sustainable dairy and crop farm (alfalfa and corn) received a Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grant. The project included erosion evaluation and mitigation, fencing around the stream, new manure storage facility, field fertilizer guidelines, to name a few items.
“The heavy use area previous to this had no roof over it. Every time it rained this stuff the stormwater picked it up,” said Larry Lloyd of Berks Nature pointing to the manure where the cows stood inside a solid-roofed shade structure. “We graded everything to collect any water that might come into contact with manure. And right down there is the stream,” pointing to an area down hill from the cows within the structure.
Lloyd also noted that manure storage is six months so that manure does not go out on the field during dormant season.
“The crops recycle the nutrients so they cannot run off into the stream,” said Lloyd. “The other thing about the heavy use area, think of it as a roadway. Instead of just letting the animals out willy-nilly over the whole area including getting to the stream, you congregate their movement in this alley way until they get out to their larger pastures. These are built like highways almost because if they had access everywhere it would all be torn up so this is called a stabilized walkway.”
The majority of the manure is generated in the eating and drinking area in the shade structure, he said. Any time it rains, water and manure flow along a curbed area toward the manure storage facility. Manure is also collected and pushed down a ramp into the storage area.
“Almost all of the manure is either here or in the pasture when it’s green so that the pasture grasses can eat the nutrients and turn it into feed for the animals,” said Lloyd.
Also rain gathers in dropboxes instead of rain gutters on the shade structure. Water goes into a dropbox and goes underneath all of the manure and goes into a wetland to recharge all of the stormwater, said Lloyd.
“These are stormwater projects as well as manure projects and nutrient projects,” he said.
Also of importance, Lloyd pointed out that the B.A.D. Farm project impacts not only the Rice family farm but also neighboring farms because they rent acreage from at least six other farms.
“You don’t want to think of this project as right here. These folks are farming 300 acres with half a dozen land owners. So we’re not just reaching David and his family but the other six land owners and 300 acres,” said Lloyd. “There’s a guide. It’s not just some willy-nilly thing. There’s a guide to guide the activities of the farmer and we’re reaching 300 acres within this project, not just this farm.”
The group also toured the Marty Nothstein property in Port Clinton which received a 2012 Schuylkill River Restoration Fund grant for a conservation easement.
Lloyd said John Spang and Tanya Russ donated the perpetual conservation easement of the 169-acre organic farm in Port Clinton to Berks Conservancy (now Berks Nature) in 2012. Marty Nothstein purchased the property with the conservation easement which will last in perpetuity.
“The farm will stay the way it is forever, no matter who the land owner is,” said Lloyd.
The property includes forests, organic farm, and more than one mile of Schuylkill River frontage.
“It’s a big benefit for drinking water quality,” said Lloyd. “Keep the fields and forests the way they are to recharge the rain and to feed our ground water and keep our streams healthy.”
During the tour at the Marty Nothstein property, Steve Tambini, Executive Director, Delaware River Basin Commission, talked about the “Imagine a Day Without Water” national campaign on Sept. 15. For more information, visit http://imagineadaywithoutwater.org/.
“Most people are spoiled. We take water for granted for the most part. There’s plenty of water. We turn the tap on. We go look at the river. Things look pretty good,” said Tambini. “Those of us in the know, know that there’s stressors, there’s challenges, there’s issues related to water supply in the Delaware River Basin.”
“There’s a lot of energy and a lot of awareness going on in the Delaware River Watershed right now from a lot of different parties, and that’s a wonderful thing,” continued Tambini.
He said new studies, research, regulations and policies are all good but at the end of the day, unless there’s action, on-the-ground work, it’s not going to mean much.
“So I come out here and spend some time looking at on-the-ground projects that are really doing a benefit to the watershed, it makes me feel real good. It certainly makes me think this energy that’s being put on the front end, regarding research, studies and all this other stuff, hopefully will result in projects like the ones we’re standing on today,” said Tambini, referring to the Marty Nothstein property. “It’s got benefit for the Schuylkill River in terms of forested areas and forest buffers and conservation for the long term.”
Tambini said the Schuylkill River is the largest tributary to the Delaware River Watershed, which serves about 1.5 million people including the City of Philadelphia.
“What happens up here in the headwaters does impact not only Philadelphia but beyond. And we all know what happens in the watershed upstream impacts what happens downstream,” he said. “It really is important to think about these kinds of projects, and how on-the-ground work makes a difference acre by acre, property by property, foot by foot of riparian buffer along the way.”
“Hopefully, when you think about the future, we won’t imagine a day without water. Nor imagine a day when water is not safe to drink or not safe to swim in or not safe for agricultural uses. We’re going to work together as partners,” he said.
For more about the Schuylkill Action Network, visit www.schuylkillwaters.org.