Susquehanna Watershed Program

The Susquehanna Watershed includes about 20% of Delaware County. Three main tributaries ― Ouleout Creek, Carrs Creek and Charlotte Creek ― drain all or parts of Masonville, Sidney, Franklin, Meredith, Kortright, Davenport and Harpersfield. The Susquehanna River eventually flows into Chesapeake Bay in the state of Maryland, contributing 50% of the Bay’s freshwater sources. Unfortunately, severe water quality issues have developed in the Bay that result from excessive nutrients (especially phosphorus and nitrogen) and sediment in the Susquehanna River. The resulting oxygen depletion degrades the health of various shellfish, fish and desired plant species found in the Bay. Besides agriculture, other sources of these nutrients and sediment include urban runoff and sewage treatment plants.

Reducing nutrients and sediment running off farmlands is important to the overall success of Bay restoration, and the DCSWCD is doing its part to support region-wide efforts by the USDA and the US-EPA to keep farmers farming while improving water quality in Chesapeake Bay. The DCSWCD’s efforts follow the statewide process known as Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) — a voluntary, incentive-based program that documents current environmental stewardship on farms and suggests possible room for improvement. Our approach is focused on making farm evaluations, suggesting effective solutions to recognized problems, methods for managing nutrients and pathogens, overseeing installation of practices and securing funds for project implementation.

We are currently working towards a goal of developing Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP) for 40 farms within the Susquehanna watershed. A CNMP is a long-term planning document that seeks to balance nutrient distribution to farmland, which often leads to improved water quality. As with the AEM approach, on-farm practices that tend to degrade water quality are identified and described, practices to address existing nutrient problems are suggested, and then the CNMP can be used to secure funding to implement those suggested practices that the farmer is comfortable with.

A federal program offered through the Delaware County SWCD is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This program provides payments to farmers for land taken out of production in order to establish riparian forest buffers, and fencing to control livestock access to streams and water bodies.

Key partners with the DCSWCD include the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Farm Service Agency, the Delaware County Department of Watershed Affairs, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. These organizations facilitate planning, research and funding opportunities for the Susquehanna Program.

For more information, please visit the websites of:

The Upper Susquehanna Coalition http://www.u-s-c.org

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Precision Feeding Program http://www.ccedelaware.org/Agriculture-Natural-Resources/PrecisionDairyFeedManagementProgram.aspx

The USDA-NRCS http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ny/technical/?cid=nrcs144p2_027110

The AEM process http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/SoilWater/aem/aemcc.html

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