Friday, November 24, 2017

Nov. 24 Take Five Black Friday With Pam, PA Parks & Forests Foundation

The November 24 Take Five Black Friday With Pam newsletter is now available from the PA Parks and Forests Foundation. For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Parks & Forests Foundation website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Foundation,  Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.  Click Here to become a member of the Foundation.
(Photo: Whipple Dam State Park, Huntingdon County by Rusty Glessner.)

DEP Published 45 Pages Of Permit Actions In Nov. 25 PA Bulletin

DEP published 45 pages of public notices related to proposed and final permit and approval/ disapproval actions in the November 25 PA Bulletin - pages 7239 to 7284.
Sign Up For DEP’s eNotice: Did you know DEP can send you email notices of permit applications submitted in your community?  Notice of new technical guidance documents and regulations?  All through its eNotice system.  Click Here to sign up.

DCNR Proposes To Add, Delete, Change Native Wild Plant Classifications

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources published notice in the November 25 PA Bulletin asking for comments on proposed changes to Chapter 45 regulations and the list of Native Wild Plants that are endangered, threatened or rare regulated under the Wild Resource Conservation Act.
DCNR now includes 604  species on the Native Wild Plant list because they are a conservation concern.  After these changes there will be a total of 582 plants on this list.
DCNR is proposing 51 classification changes in this proposed regulation, including: 9 currently unclassified plant species proposed to be newly classified and added to the list; 11 currently classified plant species proposed to be reclassified to another part of the list; 31 currently classified plant species that are proposed to be declassified.
The proposal also changes the scientific names of 79 plants to the modern nomenclature.
This list of plants is used as part of the review process for DEP environmental permits and will, when finalized, be incorporated into the PA Natural Diversity Inventory and DCNR’s online permit review and planning tool Conservation Explorer.
Click Here for a webinar describing the changes.  Click Here for a fact sheet on the changes.
Classification Process
Native wild plant species are those plant species that existed in this Commonwealth prior to European settlement. There are approximately 2,800 native wild plant species that currently exist or formerly existed in this Commonwealth.
Prior to these proposed changes 228 species were classified as endangered, 78 threatened, 3 vulnerable, 41 rare, 148 tentatively undetermined and 106 are extirpated (no longer exist).
The Department begins the process of classifying native wild plants by collecting and analyzing data on native wild plant species in this Commonwealth.
The Department uses the following data to make its classification decisions: numbers of populations known in this Commonwealth; number of individuals within populations; the plant's range (amount of ground that it covers); threats such as pests, invasive species and habitat loss; decrease or increase in population numbers; and taxonomic information.
The previous list is not exhaustive.
The Department analyzes this data to determine the population, distribution, habitat needs, limiting factors, and other biological and ecological information about each plant species.
An important piece of data that the Department uses to make classification decisions are referred to as ''State ranks.'' In this Commonwealth, each plant species receives a State rank from the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program.
The PNHP assigns these ranks based on a methodology created by Nature Serve, an international network of natural heritage programs.
The purpose of Nature Serve's methodology is to bring consistency to the biodiversity conservation efforts of individuals and organizations throughout the Western Hemisphere. This methodology is used across North America, Central America and South America.
By using this standard tool, the Department ensures its evaluation methods are, at a minimum, equivalent to that of other states and countries in the Western Hemisphere and that its classification decisions are based on sound science.
Throughout this process the Department also receives data, information and recommendations from the Pennsylvania Biological Survey's Vascular Plant Technical Committee (Committee).
The Committee is composed of professional botanists working throughout Pennsylvania in academic, consulting, governmental and conservation organizations. Each year, the Committee makes classification recommendations for native wild plants based on the research and expertise of its professional botanists.
The Department assimilates and reviews all data and recommendations it collects and receives, and determines the appropriate classifications for each native wild plant species under the definitions in Chapter 45.
Public Comments
DCNR will accept comments on the proposed changes until December 24, 2017.
Comments should be sent to: Rebecca H. Bowen, Ecological Services Section, Bureau of Forestry, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, P.O. Box 8552, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8552 (hand delivery, express mail or first class mail to Rachel Carson State Office Building, 6th Floor, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301)
Comments may also be submitted to the Department at RA-Ch45WildPlant@pa.gov and use ''Chapter 45 proposed rulemaking'' as the subject line.
For more information on this program and DCNR’s role, visit DCNR’s Wild Plants webpage.
(Photo: Ratibida pinnata (Vent.) Barnhard - Gray-Headed Prairie Coneflower proposed as endangered.)

Friday PA Environmental NewsClips

The Feds
Click Here for Updated Environmental NewsClips & News
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips & News
Click Here for PA Environment - The Feds

Thursday, November 23, 2017

House Appropriations Sets Dec. 14 Hearing On DEP, DCNR Use Of Special Funds

The House Appropriations Committee has scheduled three new hearings to continue its review of how state agencies use special funds to pay for grants and programs.  On December 14 the Committee is scheduled to question representatives of the departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.
In September, House Republicans unveiled a plan to take over $450 million from environmental special funds to help balance the state budget.  They said these monies were “surplus” and “unused” when that was clearly not the case.
While that raid was not successful, the budget revenue package that ultimately passed on October 30 included a provision directing the Governor to transfer $300 million from special funds of his choosing to the General Fund to accomplish the same objective.
DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell told the Citizens Advisory Council November 14 he did not yet know if environmental funds would be impacted by the special fund transfers.
With the Independent Fiscal Office now projecting significant deficits in the state budget in each of the next five years starting with nearly $1 billion in next year’s budget, the threat to raid environmental and other special funds continues to be real.
In the letter requesting DEP and DCNR to appear for the hearing, Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York), Majority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said--
“Throughout this year's budget negotiations process, there have been many unanswered questions about the balances of these accounts and the expenditures of these accounts. The people of Pennsylvania deserve transparency when it comes to their tax dollars and the Appropriations Committee is determined to achieve that'
“During these hearings the committee will be taking an in-depth review of the special funds under the purview of both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“Those funds include the Conservation District Fund, Coal Lands Improvement Fund, Energy Development Fund, Environmental Education Fund, Environmental Stewardship Fund, Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, Keystone Recreation Park and Conservation Fund, the Recycling Fund, and the Solid Waste-Resource Recovery Development Fund.
“lt is vital that you bring all necessary staff to answer questions about the revenues and expenditures that are related to the specified funds.
“Specifically, we are requesting DCNR Deputy Secretary for parks and Forestry John Norbeck; DCNR Director of the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation Tom Ford; DCNR Director of Administrative Services Stacie Amsler; DEP Executive Deputy Secretary for Administration and Management Darrin Bodner; DEP Bureau of Fiscal Management Director Tina Sutton; DEP Grants Center Director Michele Devaney to join you in front of the committee to answer questions on these special funds.
“Additionally, I am requesting that you submit documentation to the Committee by December 4, 2017 detailing current commitments in the Conservation District Fund, Coal Lands Improvement Fund, Environmental Education Fund, Environmental Stewardship Fund, Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, Keystone Recreation park and Conservation Fund, the Recycling Fund, and the Solid Waste-Resource Recovery Development Fund.
“Specifically, I am requesting that you detail in writing the currently open projects that have been awarded funding by 1) award date, 2) entity name, 3) project start date and 4) the anticipated date by which the funding will be expended.
“It is important that the committee and the viewing public be allowed to listen and respond to any information that is provided. Our desire is to have questions answered that day. Therefore, any unanswered questions will require the testifiers to come back and provide additional public testimony before the committee.”
Click Here for a copy of the letter.
The hearing will be held in Room G-50 of the Irvis Building from 9:30 to 12:30.  Committee hearings are typically webcast through the House Republican Caucus website.
Similar hearings have been scheduled for the Department of Transportation on December 7 and the Department of Community and Economic Development on December 13.
Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-6426 or send email to: ssaylor@pahousegop.com.  Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) serves as Minority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1540 or send email to: RepMarkosek@pahouse.net.
Related Stories:

November Synopsis Newsletter Available From Joint Conservation Committee

-- Black Bear Hunting In Pennsylvania
-- Recycling During The Holiday Season
-- Calculating The Cost Of Extreme Weather Events
-- U.K. Pact To Reduce Clothing Industry Impacts On Track
-- Green Buildings Are Often Home To Indoor Air Pollution
-- Health Checkup For The Chesapeake Bay’s Fish Population
-- Click Here to sign up for your own copy.
Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) serves as Chair of the Joint Conservation Committee.
For more information, visit the Joint Conservation Committee website, Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.

Thursday PA Environmental NewsClips

The Feds
Click Here for Updated Environmental NewsClips & News
Click Here for PA Capitol Digest NewsClips & News
Click Here for PA Environment - The Feds

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

PA Supreme Court Upholds Part Of Senate Challenge To Governor’s Veto Authority On Procedural Grounds

The PA Supreme Court Wednesday issued an opinion reversing a Commonwealth Court ruling and upheld the Senate challenge to the veto of certain provisions of a Fiscal Code bill in 2014 by Gov. Corbett.
The challenge was brought by Senators Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Senate President Pro Tempore; Jake Corman (R-Centre), Senate Majority Leader; and Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Senate Minority Leader.
The PA Supreme Court’s decision, however, turned on a procedural issue and not on whether the Governor’s line-item veto authority actually extends to the Fiscal Code.  
The Court found the Governor did not follow the proper procedure for filing his veto with the General Assembly because the House and Senate had adjourned at the time.
Since the Governor did not follow the proper procedure and issue a formal proclamation as notice of his veto, the bill was never line-itemed vetoed.
The Court said, “Having determined that the Governor’s purported partial vetoes of the FCA and the GAA failed, we have no occasion to resolve whether the Governor’s line-item veto authority of Article IV, Section 16 extends to the FCA. The veto was ineffective in its entirety in any event. Accordingly, resolution of the last issue before us must await another day.”
The issue is significant because the General Assembly has piled more and more provisions in Fiscal Code bills directing the executive branch to take actions that were not otherwise passed by the General Assembly on their own.
Click Here for a copy of the opinion.

Researchers: New Fish Passage On Susquehanna River Dam Will Help Restore Fish Populations

By Jennifer Matthews, Penn State News

The addition of a nature-like fish passage to a Susquehanna River dam in Pennsylvania should allow migrating fish to more easily reach spawning grounds, according to Penn State researchers.
“The basic idea is to open up part of the dam and then let fishes go through,” said Xiaofeng Liu, assistant professor of civil engineering and lead principal investigator of the project. “It sounds so simple, but it's not. Fishes are very picky in terms of the flow speed, turbulence, fluctuation and even temperature and water quality. All of these things need to come together.”
Migratory fish trekking along the Susquehanna River from the Chesapeake Bay during spawning season used to be so abundant, they created a thriving commercial fishing industry. They were also a primary food source for Native Americans and helped early European settlers fight off starvation.
When the York Haven Dam was built in 1904, however, and three additional dams soon after, they shut off the river course, putting the fishing industry — and the future of the fish themselves — at risk of extinction.
Though some of the fish adapted and found alternative locations to lay their eggs, their populations have still plummeted.
Before the dam was built and humans polluted the river, tens of millions of fish swam against the current every year during the spring fish run.
In fact, in the spring of 1827, 15 million fish were caught at the river mouth, so many that some were turned into fertilizer.
However, by the 1980s, biologists estimated the population of remaining American shad, once the Susquehanna’s premier fish, to be in the thousands along the river and in the bay.
In the past several decades, efforts have been made to gradually reopen the river and its tributaries to migratory fish.
York Haven now uses a fish ladder, which enables fish to pass over the dam by swimming and leaping up a series of short steps, while the other three dams — Safe Harbor, Holtwood and Conowingo — all use fish lifts, which function like an elevator, to transport the fish to the other side of the dam.
Despite these efforts, the ladders and lifts show only limited success since fish still have to find their way through passages or into an elevator chamber and then pass through all four dams.
Often fish become confused and get lost along the way.
To improve the situation, Liu and his colleagues are developing a “nature-like” fish passage for York Haven, a design they hope to eventually use at other locations as well.
To create the passage, part of the dam will be removed and replaced by an in-stream structure that will mimic what the fish encounter as they migrate in nature.
Since hydraulic conditions are complex at these sites, both computational modeling and physical modeling will be used to decrease the uncertainties that can occur under different flow conditions.
The team will utilize a 3-D high-resolution computational model to look at turbulent flow and a second model to track fish movement.
They will couple those results with a physical, scaled-down model that will allow them to see ideal flow characteristics and how the targeted fish species, the American shad and eel, will respond to these conditions.
“Around here, in the mountainous areas, these streams and creeks have a lot of boulders and rocks and fallen trees in the channel,” Liu said. “That's the natural status of the channel and the fish have biologically adapted to that through evolution.”
To simulate the natural debris in the area, the researchers will create a model that includes more than 600 4-to-6-foot boulders, as well as varying flow conditions for different fish’s needs.
“Basically, it's like a ramp with stops for the fish to climb up,” Liu said. “But the ramp might be too long or the elevation is too tall for certain fish, so we're going to provide them with resting areas so they can swim through the rapids between boulders and when they are tired, they can rest in the wake area behind the boulders.”
Once the successful model has been developed, the team will turn it over to Cube Hydro Partners, LLC, the owner and operator of the York Haven hydroelectric facility and funding partner on the project.
“It is important to Cube Hydro to ensure that our projects are designed and operated in an environmentally sound and sustainable way,” said Rick Cunningham, Cube Hydro’s director of marketing and sales. “Partnerships with leading institutions reinforce our philosophy and provide real-world applications for the next generation of hydropower industry leaders.”
The company hopes the project will provide critical information and quantitative data that will improve their design and can be used by others.
"This is an exciting opportunity for us to team with an energy company on an important environmental issue,” said co-principal investigator Peggy Johnson, dean of the Schreyer Honors College and professor of civil engineering. “Creating a functioning and sustainable fish passage requires interdisciplinary research and seeks to restore a healthy environment in the river.”
This three-year, $600,000 project titled, “Nature-like Fish Passage Design for the York Haven Dam,” began in September. Paola Ferreri, associate professor of fisheries management, also contributes to the project.

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