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1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge: Expanding Partnerships To Clean Up The Susquehanna River And The Chesapeake Bay Beyond

In October 1996, Gov. Tom Ridge hosted the governors of Virginia and Maryland and other members of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council to discuss expanding the partnerships and programs needed to clean up the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Gov. Ridge delivered these remarks to the Council on October 10, 1996--

More than 300 years ago, when vWilliam Penn first contemplated a name for his land in the new world, he chose “Penn’s Woods” to recognize the natural bounty and beauty of the land and running streams.

Penn captured, at that distant time, our love for these natural treasures and our responsibility to be good stewards of their preservation and enhancements.

Two hundred years later, or one hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution that spurred Pennsylvania and this country’s economy left scars on our land.

That era’s shortsighted, limited view of “progress” left abandoned and unreclaimed mine lands, sediments choking our streams and disappearing forests.

Environmental policy was nonexistent. Stewardship was forgotten.

A new century now approaches.

Fortunately, we now recognize the essential link between a healthy environment and economic progress.

Pennsylvania has twice as many people as we did 100 years ago, but we also have twice as much forest land.

Sixty percent of our state — Penn’s Woods — is again covered in forests.

Our environmental recovery and economic renaissance has only begun. Most importantly, they have begun together — for they are tied together, and we must treat them as such.

We now have the opportunity and responsibility to provide an environmental vision for Pennsylvania for the 21st century. And as the “upstream state” in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we must provide a vision for our neighbors as well.

At the beginning of my administration, I issued a challenge to Pennsylvania — to become a national leader in finding new ways to protect our environment while promoting economic progress.

In the past, location near water made our cities grow.

Earlier today, representatives of the partners in the bay program planted trees along the Susquehanna, on a site that used to be a steel mill. Now, it’s home to a new public building in which state employees serve their fellow citizens.

A trail wanders along the edge of the property that enables people to enjoy the beauty of the Susquehanna.

That kind of rebirth is what our Land Recycling Program is all about.

Take lifeless, abandoned industrial sites, clean them up and put them to productive, job sustaining use.

Pennsylvania has reversed environmental cleanup policies that pushed new development out of our industrial centers and onto our pristine farm and forest lands.

We have reversed the trend from development of greenfields back to existing, although neglected, industrial sites.

In just one year, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has already seen the successful cleanup and redevelopment of 35 sites, with 94 more in the program. And we’ve only just begun.

I like to consider our new environmental policies, sustainable thinking.

So, just as people depend on water, rivers depend on woodlands.

One of their benefits  the protection of watersheds, including the mighty Susquehanna, its tributaries, and, of course, the Bay beyond.

Our natural resource agency  the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources  has worked over the year since it was created to highlight the importance of conservation and restoration of our nearly 2.4 million acres of state forests and state parks, much of which falls within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

DCNR, led by John Oliver, will continue to protect and establish stream buffers in Pennsylvania.

Today we also launch the new Businesses for the Bay program.

In Pennsylvania, we know that pollution prevention is better than clean up.

Our new Office of Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance in the Department of Environmental Protection is working to encourage individuals, local governments and businesses to achieve a zero discharge goal in their environmental programs.

That goal of zero discharge is, of course, very ambitious. Many forward-looking companies have already adopted it. Some have even achieved it.

But for all of Pennsylvania, the Businesses for the Bay Program is an important part of our pollution prevention efforts.

Of course, the best way to meet our environmental challenges is partnership. Partnership with businesses, local governments, with communities  and partnership with other states.

Our responsibilities as Pennsylvanians extend beyond our borders.

The successes we have had through our efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Program have been extended and expanded to the Council of Great Lakes Governors, which I chair, and to an interstate effort to protect the Delaware Estuary, just christened last month by Governors Carper and Whitman, and myself.

Wherever we live, we all live in a watershed.

And these interstate partnerships extend Pennsylvania’s watershed protection initiatives all around our borders from the waters of Lake Erie, to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, down the Ohio River and also into the Chesapeake Bay.

Watershed approaches are the wave of the future. We should not abandon the role model for these approaches.

The three river basin commissions that Pennsylvania participates in have proven historically effective, and we should make sure they have continued success.

Pollution doesn’t recognize political boundaries.

That presents us with another opportunity to work together as we come to realize the significant impact that air pollution can have on large bodies of water, such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and the Delaware Estuary.

Ozone [pollution] is responsible for billions of dollars of crop damage annually. It also affects water quality.

We now know that a substantial portion of the nutrient pollution through nitrates in large bodies of water, like the Chesapeake, has been attributed to nitrogen oxide emissions, which also help cause ozone.

In September of 1994, Pennsylvania signed a memorandum of understanding that has already resulted in a 170,000-ton reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions — a 40 percent decrease in the Commonwealth.

But, as I have said before, Northeast states cannot solve the ozone problem on our own.

So once again, we have formed a partnership with 36 other states in the Eastern United States to develop a more effective strategy for ozone control  a national strategy for a national problem.

When we address the effects of air pollution on our waterways we take one step in our efforts to cut back on the nutrients that are overwhelming the Chesapeake Bay. But there are others.

There are other steps we must take because we recognize the downstream problems  suburban sprawl, urban runoff, overuse of fertilizers and animal wastes by upstream landowners.

Pennsylvania’s aggressive new environmental policy is working.

We are actively encouraging the development of new “green” technologies to solve our own environmental problems and to foster economic growth.

We’ve developed a statewide geographic information system to inform the public and warn permit applicants of sensitive environmental areas.

And we welcome the Bay program’s efforts as directed by this council today to make the format of information consistent so it can easily be shared.

We’ve passed a ’96/’97 budget for additional support for nutrient management programs and county conservation districts.

We’ve created wetlands reforms that provide a consistent definition of wetlands and promote scientifically sound wetlands replacement efforts.

Between 1985 and 1994 we reduced phosphorus at our point sources by 48 percent. We continue to support the evaluation of our wastewater treatment plants for new technology for nutrient removal.

We have worked especially hard in partnership with our agricultural community to encourage controls on pollution that comes from the general drainage of the land and cannot be traced to a specific source.

We’re seeing progress.

The regulations that will implement our Nutrient Management Act — the keystone of the Commonwealth’s Chesapeake Bay Cleanup efforts — are scheduled for final adoption early next year.

We already have provided nearly $19 million to help 981 farmers in 37 counties with the costs of implementing best management practices.

Please note those farmers have provided an additional $11 million of their own money to install these conservation measures.

Through the efforts of our conservation districts, 100,000 acres have been brought under nutrient management plans.

We have fenced 165 miles of streams, preventing soil erosion and nutrients from entering our waters.

We are encouraging stream corridor partnerships and watershed associations, and in cooperation with others sponsored the Riparian Forest Buffer workshops for Local Government and Citizens held earlier this year.

I will also be chairing a Nonpoint Source Forum to be held in Pennsylvania over the next year in cooperation with The Conservation Fund to look at water quality in our Commonwealth, and the impacts of nonpoint source pollution.

Bringing together business, local governments and citizens, the forum will ask them to look at cooperative processes and solutions to address the impacts to watersheds.

We have set goals, but goals are important only if they motivate us into action.

In Pennsylvania, it’s not a question of “whether” we will meet our nutrient reduction goals, but rather “when” we will meet the goals.

On a Saturday last fall, one of our state employees, Sam Graci, his four year old son Evan and a friend were exploring the Susquehanna River just north of where we are today. They were looking to spot crayfish, clams, mussels, fish and turtles as part of their outing.

But Evan’s attention was caught by an unusual white stone, and he asked his Dad to retrieve it for him. After doing some checking, the trio of explorers determined they had found a freshwater sponge.

The team’s discovery of a freshwater sponge in the Susquehanna — one of only four known areas in the state — is a symbolic example of the improvements in the quality of water in the river.

It’s through cooperative efforts that our great waters, the air that we share, our forest and farm lands and stream corridors will be protected, and even improved.

We look forward to continuing the many partnerships established through the Chesapeake Bay Program as we pursue our common goals through the next century and beyond.

Related Articles In This Series:

Feature: 20 Years Of Growing Greener: A Celebration Of Leadership, Partnership, Accomplishment

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About His Very Personal Connection To Lake Erie And The Need To Work Together To Restore The Great Lakes

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Joins With Governors Of Delaware, New Jersey, Federal Officials To Establish The Delaware Estuary Program

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Thanks First Environmental Excellence Award Winning Businesses For Eliminating 1.4 Million Tons Of Waste, Pollution

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About Rebuilding Pennsylvania's Industrial Heritage Through Land Recycling

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About The Vision And Actions Needed To Restore Our Environment At The PA Environmental Council’s Three Rivers Awards

1996 - Department Of Environmental Protection Mission Statement & Statement Of Values

1995-2002 - DEP Secretary James M. Seif: The Assignment Was Clear - Take The Kick Me! Sign Off DER

1995-2002 - DEP Secretary David E. Hess: Many New Hands Now Help Protect Penn’s Woods

1995-2002 - Environmental Accomplishments Of The Ridge & Schweiker Administrations

1995-2002: Awards And Recognition For Environmental Programs During The Ridge & Schweiker Administrations

[Posted: December 9, 2019]


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