1998 Newsletters


December 1998  

New and renewing members: Lawrence Anderson, Ruth Embich  FYI: Regular membership dues are due.

Give the gift of water for Christmas.

Enclosed is SCWA’s new brochure highlighting some of

our successes. We’d be honored if you’d show your

support with the gift of a membership to yourself, your

spouse, your children or grandchildren, a friend, or an

employee. Together, we can share a vision and plan the future of our Valley. We can be blessed with both a vibrant economy and preserve the quality of life as we know it for generations to come. By coordinating thoughts and resources across municipal and county lines; by including property owners, farmers, and businesses; and by working with state and federal agencies, we can share this vital resource known as the Swatara Creek Watershed. Communication is the key to success.

Happy Holidays to everyone! May God bless and keep you during this season and throughout the coming year!

IComing meetings, 9:30AM – Public is welcome:

bulletDecember 23, 1998 – Sallie’s Place, Jonestown – Election of officers and Workshop on Rivers Plan.
bulletJanuary 27, 1999 – Municipal Building, 400 S 8th St., Lebanon PA: Swatara State Park, Questions & Answers with EPA & US Fish & Wildlife
bulletYour vote, your voice needed. Review the following results from our recently held public meetings, and provide rankings of the key issues lists. Place an "A" for high priority; "B" for important, but can wait; and "C" for long-term consideration. Return ASAP to Tom or Jo Ellen. Results will be combined with rankings from the 1996 EXPO.
10/27/98, Northern Lebanon High School 10/31/98, Pine Grove Township Building 11/7/98, Lower Dauphin Middle School
  1. Water quality needs to be protected
Inventory non-point pollution sources (i.e. Agricultural, acid mine drainage, storm water, on-lot septic systems) Inventory non-point pollution sources (i.e. Agricultural, storm water, industrial sites, quarry operations, and warehouses)
bulletIndustrial development regulations regarding water impacts
Sewage treatment plants at maximum capacity cause overflow during high flows Examine impacts of transportation corridors (water quality impacts, development facilitation)
bulletWildlife protection assessment
Need to map forested buffer areas to evaluate need for riparian programs New technology for enhancement of infiltration and groundwater recharge
bulletNeed to carry-out plans for protection of environmental amenities
Sweet Arrow Lake renovation is needed Raise sensitivity of Planning and zoning boards to habitat loss and techniques to protect environmental amenities (wetlands, riparian buffers, use of Growing Greener planning)
bulletRails-to-Trails from Swatara State Park south, and the Union Canal corridor east to west
Swatara State Park Dam completion supported Funding for easement acquisition
bulletWater trails on the Swatara Creek & Union Canal connections
Intergovernmental cooperation needed for recreation Baseline water quality monitoring needed in more areas of watershed
bulletRespect property rights along Creek
Flood control—no building in flood plains Open space inventory needs done to help plan for desired protection 10-20 years in the future
bulletConsider easements and purchase of land for preservation
Preserve aesthetics of the area to enhance quality of life Inventory Riparian buffers & encourage more areas
bulletMaintain outboard motor restrictions at 10HP or less in Swatara State Park Reservoir
Strengthen the local economy-jobs-industry Inform planners wetlands are good, not swamps to be drained
bulletMaximize recreational use of Swatara Creek
Continue Acid mine drainage abatement program Foster environmental education
bulletAssess increasing population impacts on the region
Encourage tourism to the area Review unassessed stream inventory for the watershed
bulletSwatara State Park Reservoir needs to be considered for future water supply
Develop a water quality monitoring program for the upper watershed Farmland preservation and the enviro-economics of farmland loss needs to be taught to the public and municipal planners
bulletEncourage fishing along the Swatara
Landfill expansion is a concern—support three year out-of-state waste moratorium Highlight public information about watershed projects. Better press coverage of good things done in watershed & need for more good projects.
bulletProtect & install riparian buffers along tributaries and Swatara Creek
bulletAssess sediment load from the tributaries to the Swatara
bulletEncourage environmental education in the region and at Swatara State Park
bulletEncourage pollution control legislation--Bottle Bill for PA
bulletAssess unique flora & fauna of the Swatara Watershed
bulletEncourage better access to the Swatara Creek (canoe launches, parking for cars)
bulletPromote conservation landscaping as a pollution-sediment control tool
bulletEncourage multi-county regional planning
bulletWater quality impacts from intensive agriculture operations (i.e. CAO’s, CAFO’s, over-fertilization)
bulletWater harvesting & diversions from watershed need assessed to protect water quality & future water availability.


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September 1998

Swatara State Park Reservoir


Swatara Creek Watershed Association members have followed project 70 for decades. We were pleased to endorse the DEP 105-permit application for the reservoir project at Swatara State Park in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties. Some have asked why. The answer is not short, but we’ll attempt to highlight some of the reasons in this issue of Swatara News.

In 1996, the Swatara Creek Watershed Association (formerly CCCW) hosted an EXPO at Northern Lebanon High School where we heard success stories from various grass-roots groups in the Swatara watershed. Then, we broke-out into groups to identify and vote on issues and projects for the watershed. Consistently in the top ten issues/projects identified was the completion of the Swatara State Park and Reservoir. To that end, SCWA has worked vigorously to help clean up the water to make this vision become reality.

With the completion of the Swatara State Park Reservoir, we can accomplish four things: 1) Provide for future water supply needs in our growing region; 2) provide much needed recreation for an increasing population; 3) since the location and size are comparable to the former "Big Dam" that fed the Union Canal, restore some of our history; and 4) revitalize the economy of the area with new recreation based commerce.

In addition to long standing businesses, AMP, Sherwin Williams, Sid Tool, and Ingram Micro are examples of relatively new businesses that will benefit from a sufficient supply of potable water and recreational attractions for their employees. Yes, the Swatara Creek water quality has come a long way. With upgraded and improved sewage treatment plants; back-filling and reseeding of former coal mines; removal of culm piles at the northern end of the Park; and the installation of limestone diversion wells and wetlands, the average pH has risen from 3-4 to an average of 6-7. And this doesn’t include the multitude of wetlands that will be created naturally when the reservoir is completed. In short, together we have reversed our acid mine drainage legacy, and businesses, government and citizens have cooperatively and successfully taken back the Swatara Creek. The Chesapeake Bay should benefit from a cleaner headwaters too. Representatives from both major political parties; Bethel, Pine Grove, Swatara, and Union townships; and both Lebanon and Schuylkill counties; as well as the State of Pennsylvania have worked together to get the Swatara Reservoir off the drawing board into the project development stage. How often do you see this kind of intergovernmental cooperation? We have worked so hard for so long. We have a vision for our community. We’ve planned and toiled. It’s not a perfect world, but we’ve used the Reservoir as a focus to attain cleaner water. Now that we’ve corrected water quality, we must think several generations ahead and plan for this growing region by completing the Swatara State Park Reservoir. If former Senator Paul Simon’s predictions of increased population and water wars in fifteen to twenty years are accurate, then our vision is on target. If the watershed approach is for real, all levels of government can both grant us our request and help us attain our vision.

SCWA believes the Swatara State Park will be a place for families to enjoy water based recreation, such as, fishing, swimming, canoeing and boating, but also hiking, birding, and just enjoying the natural beauty of the Valley as a way to unwind from daily stresses. It will bring mom, dad, son and daughter to a better appreciation for nature and their environment. For the past decade, SCWA has taken over one thousand canoeists on clean-up trips down the Swatara. From this personal experience, SCWA knows the water table gets lower as the summer progresses when it seems you have to drag your canoes more than you can ride. A presentation at the Ono Fire Company suggested there would be a slight increase in flow from the dam breast. Perhaps this will extend the canoe season and foster canoe rentals, bait and tackle shops, and bed and breakfast inns. 

The completion of the Swatara Reservoir can become part of a comprehensive recreation plan for the Swatara Watershed. In the process of completing our Rivers Conservation Plan, SCWA will document the history and culture of the area. The former "Big Dam" at Swatara State Park is an important part of the picture. Canal locks in the State Park can also enhance the teaching of history to our children. We acknowledge that one of the 95 canal locks may be sacrificed to provide materials to repair other locks. Next, if a vision to establish a hiking trail along the former Union Canal towpath becomes reality, the Swatara State Park has the potential to become a more popular destination for hikers too.

Completion of the reservoir will also heal wounds left when land was taken from local residents or their families through eminent domain. The fulfillment of a promise to build the reservoir will also help to bring revenue to an area that was removed from the tax rolls while the remaining residents had to cover lost tax dollars. Besides, since 1970, the money to complete this project is in Pennsylvania’s General Fund.

In conclusion, whether you’re planning for the future in recreation, tourism, public water supply, or business and industry, the Swatara State Park Reservoir is essential to maintain the quality of life as we know it in the Lebanon Valley.

Remembering Words from a Science Teacher

Everything in life has a cycle, including wetlands. Since they are filling with silt and leaves, vernal pools are wetlands near the end of their cycle. The water that fills a vernal pool a portion of the year will eventually run to a new location and naturally create a new wetland.

 CAO’s & CAFO’s

Emotions are running high with the introduction of Concentrated Animal Operations (State term) CAO’s and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Federal term) CAFO’s in the Lebanon Valley. With their liquid manure and related odor, hog "farms" are at the center of the controversy—even though poultry and cows can be CAO’s too. Flies, pollution of the water and air, disease, and lost real estate value concern residents too.

Many people in the Lebanon Valley are from a farming background and support family farms 100%. Agriculture is still our number one industry. We even voted to preserve family farms.

All businesses are struggling to make a living and return on their investment, especially farmers. So, some farmers are looking at signing contracts with corporations. It’s attractive to know they’ll have a set income from a guaranteed buyer. But there can be compromises like mandatory purchase of feed from company owned suppliers and taking on liability if any pollution occurs. The bottom line is the farmer makes a personal decision that best protects his farm and family.

Issues arise when thousands of animals produce more manure than can be safely applied to farm acreage as a fertilizer. The result is transportation of manure to other farms for application to the soil.

Townships are looking closely at ordinances to protect both agriculture and residents. Let’s not lose our heads in this matter. We need to include everyone, especially local farmers, to resolve any conflicts that arise.

Bottled Water

Union Township Zoning Hearing Board recently decided a case concerning bottling of water. Some of the Findings of Fact include:

bulletThe (US) Department of Agriculture regulates the bottling of water for human consumption.
bulletThe extraction of water from the ground is an extraction of a mineral, which is considered a mining use.
bulletWater is a mineral not a food which is mined for human consumption.
bulletSalt is a mineral, which is also mined and consumed as a food.

The Board sighted the case of (Board of Township Supervisors v. Zoning Hearing Board, 567 A.2d 787 (Pa Cmwlth. 1989). Agriculture is the raising or cultivating of organic material and livestock upon the land. Water is an inorganic mineral resource, which is not raised on the land but rather is extracted from sources located within the earth.

In the case of Hess v. Zoning Hearing Board of Warwick Township, 45 Chester Co. Reports, 26 (1997), Chester County Courts considered a situation with facts very similar to Union Township proceedings. The Court found that water is an extracted resource much like other minerals, rock, or substances like these and is not an agricultural product. "Spring water is not a product of the farm operation in any way; bulk spring water is no way analogist to a bushel of corn under the ordinance. Therefore, the Zoning Hearing Board did not abuse its discretion in not concluding that the Hess’ proposed use is not permitted in the residential/agricultural district of the Township."

A similar case was addressed by the Supreme Court of Vermont in Houston v. Township of Waitsfield, 648 A.2d 864 (VT 1994). In that case, the property owner argued that the extraction of water is similar to traditional agricultural uses and alleged that water is a renewable food product when it is cultivated or harvested like any other natural product and that water was raised quite literally from the ground as one would raise any other crop. The Supreme Court of Vermont found that water is not an agricultural product raised on the property, but rather that water is a subsurface good extracted from the property much as one would mine or quarry any subsurface material. As a result, the Court found mining of water from property is not an agricultural use.

In summary, the Union Township Board said no. They concluded such use is commercial in nature and compatible only in the commercial district under Section 405 of the Zoning Ordinance.

(Excerpts paraphrased from Union Township Hearing Board decision,)

Landfill Expansion Plans

According to the Pottsville Republican, the 230-acre permitted Commonwealth Environmental Landfill sitting on 1000 acres of land is also purchasing 226 county-owned acres for $800,000 adjacent to its Foster Township operation for the purpose of owning the road leading from Route 25 to the landfill entrance, not increasing their maximum 2,350 daily tonnage of municipal waste. The purchase contains 142 acres of tax-delinquent property in Reilly and Frailey Townships. Previously, CES had an access easement.

Paul Simon

In the August 23, 1998 Sunday Patriot News Parade, former Senator Paul Simon reports Aquifers (underground water sources) are being depleted. In Texas, for instance, "from 1930 to 1980, water use increased twice as fast as the population." Simon encourages CONSERVATION of our natural resource.

In Florida, a "report notes that there are "both quality and quantity problems….Ninety percent of the state’s population depends on groundwater, and the groundwater is highly susceptible to contamination from…municipal landfills, hazardous waste dumps, septic tanks and agricultural pesticides."

In some areas, California has sucked their water supply dry too.

"Nations fight over oil, but valuable as it is, there are substitutes for oil. There is no substitute for water. We die quickly without water, and no nation’s leaders would hesitate to battle for adequate water supplies."

Watch for Simon’s new book, "Tapped Out."


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