Bill Rolls Back Riparian Buffer Requirements
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
HARRISBURG – Governor Corbett signed HB 1565 on October 22, a bill that would weaken the protection afforded exceptional value and high quality streams by forested riparian buffers. The bill would make forested riparian buffers optional, rather than mandatory.
Despite bipartisan opposition in the Senate and opposition by PLNA and a broad coalition of environmental groups, the bill passed narrowly and was sent on the governor for signature. PLNA had urged the governor to veto the bill.
Forested riparian buffers have been shown to be the best means of protecting and enhancing water quality in Pennsylvania’s streams. In a recent review of the scientific literature, staff at Pennsylvania’s Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale found that forested riparian buffers provide the following benefits:
- Provide cooling shade to the stream allowing the water to hold more dissolved oxygen necessary for the health of fish and other aquatic species;
- Slow storm water runoff to the stream allowing more infiltration to ground water and reducing flash flooding downstream;
- Remove nitrates from stormwater runoff, improving stream water quality;
- Trap sediment that would otherwise enter the stream, improving stream water quality;
- Reduce stream channel meandering and stabilize the stream banks.
In addition, the restoration and maintenance of riparian buffers and other "green" infrastructure has become an important business for many PLNA members. Member nurseries grow the native trees and plants used to restore forested riparian buffers and landscape contractors install the trees and plants and do the maintenance work on the buffers. For many PLNA members, it's an economic and business issue.
Further the green industry has come under pressure to regulate turf grass fertilizer application in search of improving water quality. The science shows that a dense healthy cover of turf grass actually reduces pollution from storm water runoff. PLNA is concerned that if water quality degrades due to the reduction of forested riparian buffers, the pressure to regulate turf grass fertilizers will increase, regardless of what the science says.
A copy of the full bill text can be downloaded here.