PLNA Supports Bill to Improve Riparian Buffers
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
HARRISBURG - The PLNA Government Relations Committee voted to throw its support behind a bill that would repair the damage done to state riparian buffer requirements by Act 162 passed last session by the General Assembly. Act 162 removed the requirement that 150 foot riparian buffers be maintained along high quality and exceptional value streams in Pennsylvania.
The new bill, SB 560, was introduced by Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery County) and requires a 300 foot riparian buffer for high quality and exceptional value streams, plus a minimum 100 foot riparian buffer for other streams, rivers and lakes.
The width of the buffer could be increased based upon other factors such as the slope adjacent to the waters and whether the stream is designated as “impaired” by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
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 as well as an environmental 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.
PLNA has one concern with the bill which is that the bill bans the use of turf grass fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides on lawns and other portions of the properties adjacent to the riparian buffer. As mentioned above, peer-reviewed research has shown that turf grass that is well-maintained with fertilizer actually produces less nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff than poorly maintained turf grass with no fertilizer. PLNA is bringing this research to Senator Rafferty’s attention and will be seeking changes to this language in the bill.
Please contact your state Senator and urge him or her to support SB 560.