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Two major watersheds discuss plans for pilot project at White Deer Golf Course

By Staff | Jan 17, 2012

Megan D. Lehman, environmental planner with Lycoming County, introduced a pilot project for the White Deer Golf Course using the county's nutrient credit trading program to hold back erosion, to members of the Muncy Creek and Black Hole Watersheds.

HUGHESVILLE – A joint public program was held last week at Hughesville’s Public Library with the Black Hole Creek and Muncy Creek Watershed Associations. The purpose of the meeting was to gather more information from Lycoming County on the impact the two watersheds will have regarding a pilot project to start at White Deer Golf Course to improve floodplains and decrease erosion.

The program is based on nutrient credits invested by the county to help farmers and landowners to significantly reduce nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from entering the watershed. The credits are created when best management practices are taken into play. For example, a credit might be created by a watershed group that installs a section of riparian buffer or restores a stream bank by a farmer who converts to no-till planting.

The two watersheds, Muncy Creek and Black Hole, run through the White Deer Golf Course and are in compliance with the nutrient trading program to restore the Chesapeake Bay according to Megan D. Lehman, Environmental Planner with Lycoming County. She introduced the program along with Land Studies from Lititz who will be designing and implementing the project. The golf course is owned and managed by the county’s recreation department. “This is a cost-effective solution sought by the county,” announced Lehman. “By using the nutrient credit trading program to tackle the problem, we can cap the sediment flowing from the Bay and see which sectors can reduce the pollution,” she said.

Credits are generally offered per pound for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution which are traded and entered into a credit bank which then can be purchased from other entities. “It can be fairly complicated, but we’ve seen it works,” Lehman said. She referred to Hughesville and Wolf Township’s joint sewer and water authority working with nutrient mandates. Hughesville is the first in the county to do all credit trading.

A large portion of the funding came from a substantial grant with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. $600,000 was given to the county in 2009 for flood plain restoration projects.

Thus, with consistent flooding, Lycoming County’s White Deer Golf Course is a suitable site for a demonstration project to visibly show how the program works. The County has already invested more than $500,000 to design a county-based strategy that partners with wastewater treatment plants, farmers and landowners to keep compliance costs in check and reduce pollution in the Bay.

Designer and engineer for the Golf Course project, Benjamin Ehrhart from Land Studies, told the members of the two watersheds that his company will support implementation of the county’s nutrient program with stream and flood plain restoration while improving channel stability and water quality. At the same time all of this will be reducing maintenance for the golf course. He showed drawings and maps of flooding stream beds, and how they can be improved with vegetation filters to stabilize erosion with cost benefits for sediment and nutrient reduction. “This will be an area that won’t have to be mowed or fertilized,” Ehrhart said.

With all of the recent rainfall and flooding, erosion has been accelerating, especially where the Black Hole Creek drains into the channel at White Deer. “It is starting to widen out,” added Ehrhart. “There have been causes of instability with sediment transport existing downstream,” he said. He also assured the group that the project will not impede in any way with the way to play golf on the course. The project is scheduled to begin construction late this summer.

He made recommendations to excavate the flood plain and stabilize the banks to reduce sediment loading. “We can create a .43 acre of reparian wetland to reduce nutrient loading,” he described, “and remove existing stone walls.” The existing site in reference is about 500 linear feet on the east side of the golf course where soil samples have been taken. Detailed construction drawings will be submitted to DEP for a permit.

With a budget of $280,000 the project hopes to add some visual interest by utilizing interpretive panels describing how the project will be reducing the consistent flooding problems on the course. “This will be a restoration project that will solve multiple problems,” Ehrhart concluded. This will be a pilot demonstration site work showing how it can be done. “We will stabilize the site that has eroding conditions and make a small contribution to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Project.”

Lycoming County will receive the credits through the Recreation Authority.

Just last Friday the USDA Natural Resources and Environment announced a media conference call on USDA’s funding for projects to enhance the effectiveness of water quality credit trading. Half of that funding is focused on water quality credit trading in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These projects are funded through Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grants.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing up to $10 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) for these projects, with up to $5 million focused on water quality credit trading in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Proposals for projects are due March 2, 2012.