Lancaster Countywide Action Plan

The majority of Lancaster County’s 1,400 miles of streams and much of its groundwaters are unhealthy.

Because of this, it is a priority area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has set goals for all six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants by 2025. Pennsylvania’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) identifies the best ways to reduce these pollutants, in addition to sediment, in our local waterways.

The Lancaster Countywide Action Plan (CAP) outlines Lancaster’s path for achieving nitrogen and phosphorus reductions for clean and clear water throughout the county. It was developed through a significant and collaborative grassroots approach with local partner organizations, experts, community members, and state agencies.

With the planning process complete, Lancaster partners are now implementing the CAP. Lancaster is responsible for 21% of the state’s nitrogen and 23% of the phosphorus reduction goals – that’s a lot of work in one county!

That’s why the Lancaster Clean Water Partners are grateful for the additional capacity that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is providing with funds for a CAP Coordinator to tackle the job. With the Lancaster Clean Water Partners as the lead entity, the CAP Coordinator is made up of three local partners – LandStudies, Lancaster Farmland Trust, and David Miller/Associates – who can focus on specific work that will help us reach local reduction goals. 

Additional support is provided by DEP through implementation dollars which support local projects that achieve the reductions identified in the CAP. 

Quick facts about the Lancaster CAP

  • Lancaster County is responsible for 21% of the state’s required nitrogen reductions and 23% of the phosphorus reductions.
  • The CAP achieves 11.7 million pounds of reduced nitrogen and about 524,000 pounds of reduced phosphorus from local waterways.
  • DEP has provided funds to hire CAP Coordinators – those responsible for specific work to achieve reduction goals. Lancaster CAP Coordinator is made up of LandStudies, Lancaster Farmland Trust, and David Miller/Associates.
  • The CAP was presented to DEP in fall of 2019 and submitted to EPA as part of the state WIP in August 2019.

The Lancaster CAP contributes to Pennsylvania’s Watershed Implementation Plan, which is required by the EPA. EPA has outlined backstop actions if required reductions are not met by 2025.

2020 Countywide Action Plan Implementation Grantees

Farmer Prioritizes Conservation in East Lampeter

Lancaster Farmland Trust was awarded funding for the implementation of BMPs on a farm located in East Lampeter Township with significant need for stream corridors and livestock management. Along with project partner TeamAg, Inc., Lancaster Farmland Trust has developed a list of site-specific BMPs for the farm that will result in significant nutrient and sediment reductions in the Lower Conestoga Watershed. This impactful project, located in a visible and significant area, will serve as an outstanding example of the Lancaster farming community’s growing commitment to environmental restoration.

Read more about the conservation implementation in East Lampeter. 

Fishing Creek Stream Tributary Restoration and Buffer Installation

The Donegal Chapter of Trout Unlimited was awarded funds for a restoration and buffer installation project in the Fishing Creek Stream. With these funds, they will restore stream banks and plant buffers to reduce the stream’s nutrient and sediment pollution. This project serves as an essential improvement for the farm and completes its conservation plan requirements, which supports the family’s business, culture, and ultimately the local water quality.  


Lancaster City Alliance Street Tree Plantings

The Lancaster City Alliance and Lancaster Tree Tenders will use the awarded funding to purchase 20 trees that will be planted in several locations along West King Street/Columbia Avenue and South Prince/South Queen Streets. Lancaster City staff will prep the sites, plant, mulch, and stake the trees. Lancaster Tree Tenders will provide tree care details in English and Spanish and species information to the property owners. The trees will benefit the target areas through energy savings, lower temperatures, reduced air pollution, enhanced property values, wildlife habitat, social and educational opportunities, and aesthetics.

Lancaster City Green Infrastructure Renovation

The Culliton Park Renovation Project includes the implementation of green infrastructure that will greatly increase the aesthetics and improve water quality. Two rain gardens/bioretention areas and a subsurface infiltration bed will be installed to collectively manage stormwater from 1.48 acres. Annually, the green infrastructure implemented is expected to capture 1,324,337 gallons of stormwater and result in the reduction of 5216.87 lbs of sediment, 14.80 lbs of phosphorus, and 5.97 lbs of nitrogen.

Culliton Park (formerly Farnum Park) is one of the city’s largest public parks and the most prominent park in the SouthWest neighborhood. This project has been several years in the making. After extensive input from neighborhood residents, the design was completed with artist involvement and construction commenced in February of 2020 and will be completed in November 2020.

Murry Ridge Park Green Infrastructure Improvements

Murry Ridge Park, located in West Hempfield Township, is in the West Branch Little Conestoga Creek Watershed surrounded by suburban residential development. West Hempfield Township will implement green infrastructure improvements to reduce stormwater pollution. The township plans to divert stormwater into a vegetated swale, construct a bioretention basin, plant a riparian buffer, install landscaping to attract pollinators and songbirds, retrofit the dry detention basin to a dry extended basin, add a natural trail, and incorporate educational signage. These improvements will reduce stormwater pollutants, increase biodiversity and habitat for native wildlife species, and educate the public on the benefits of these projects.

Read more about the Murry Ridge Park Green Infrastructure Improvements.

Paradise Township Vegetated Swale

Paradise Township was awarded funding to install a vegetated swale on Vernon Stoltzfus-Kinzers land to reduce stormwater pollution. Vernon Stoltzfus-Kinzers Property Holdings, LLC, owns a 13-acre property within the urbanized area of Paradise Township in the Pequea Creek Watershed. To reduce stormwater pollution, the township will partner with Mr. Stoltzfus to retrofit the concrete-lined swale to a vegetated swale. The swale will include amended soils and be planted with a variety of native perennial flowers and grasses. These improvements will reduce stormwater rates and volumes, and increase biodiversity and habitat for native wildlife species.

Read more about the Paradise Township vegetated swale project.

Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership Conservation Installments

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, in partnership with the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership, will install a number of conservation practices on six farms. Conservation practices include manure storage facilities, riparian forest buffers, heavy use area stabilization, grassed waterways, and on-farm stormwater management. These practices will decrease pollutant loads entering local streams and rivers. They will also educate audiences on the importance of supporting farmers in protecting water quality.

How We Got Here

In June 2018, Lancaster County – along with Adams, Franklin, and York Counties – was invited by DEP to develop a countywide plan (once referred to as the local strategy or Lancaster WIP) to address the state’s WIP goals.

Armed with a toolbox of customized Lancaster data and recognizing the tight timeline, the Partners teamed up with local experts, community members, and state agencies to begin developing, what would later be called, the Lancaster CAP. The writing team gathered bi-weekly from July-November 2018. The plan was then presented to DEP in January 2019 and submitted to EPA as part of the state WIP in August 2019.

A huge thank you to the writing team and essential contributors for their commitment, creativity, and dedication: Justin Evans, Allyson Ladley Gibson, Brian Gish, Ruth Hocker, Mark Huber, Peter Hughes, Matt Kofroth, Joe Sweeney, Chris Thompson, Joellyn Warren, Charity Quinn, Kevin Lutz, Jeff Hill, Jeff Sholly, Jon Beck, Nate Kurtz, members of the Lancaster Clean Water Consortium, the Engineers Roundtable, Lancaster’s buffer team, the Lancaster County Ag Council, the Lancaster Clean Water Partners Action Teams, and many more.

Header photo: Michelle Johnsen, courtesy of Lancaster Conservancy