Lancaster, Pa. – A unique partnership of conservation groups and local corporations is combining forces to improve water quality in the Conestoga River and address climate change globally.
A forested riparian buffer was planted Saturday along a tributary to the Little Conestoga River near the Lancaster General Health Campus north of Route 30 in Lancaster PA. Exelon Corporation in partnership with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), Lancaster General Health System, Little Conestoga Watershed Alliance, Lancaster County Conservancy and Rettew Associates developed and carried out the project.
Brian Hill, President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said, “This project exemplifies how the Council’s approach of conservation through cooperation can be implemented with on-the-ground projects. We were delighted that Exelon, Lancaster General and others joined with us for this collaborative effort to improve water quality, and at the same time demonstrate ways to generate nutrient credits and store carbon by planting trees and other native species. This is a classic win-win situation where water quality gets better and we begin to address climate change.”
“Saturday’s tree planting is exactly the kind of community partnership Exelon looks for as a way to demonstrate our commitment to the environment,” said Exelon Vice President, Environment, Health and Safety Helen Howes. “This project will reduce sediment and nutrient runoff into the Little Conestoga River and the Susquehanna River watershed, it will improve habitat and is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Planting more than 600 native trees and shrubs are estimated to sequester 3 metric tons of CO2 annually once the trees mature,” Howes added.
The project will demonstrate how a community-based partnership can implement a watershed restoration project that improves air and water quality, improves wildlife habitat and yields two sets of quantifiable environmental service credits, one for reducing nutrients and sediments entering the stream and another for sequestering carbon, the leading cause of global warming.
The partnership planted a diverse mix of native trees and shrubs as a stream or riparian buffer 1,100 feet long and 120 feet wide adjacent to a field of soybeans on property owned by Lancaster General. The project builds on a riparian buffer planted by the Little Conestoga Watershed Alliance last spring immediately upstream of the project site located on the west side of Route 741. These projects have multiple environmental benefits including improved water quality, air quality and aquatic and terrestrial habitat for fish and wildlife.
The buffer planted Saturday represents a groundbreaking way to fund watershed restoration projects to yield environmental credits. Specifically, the project will yield nutrient and sediment reduction credits in the nutrient-trading program for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed recognized by the state Department of Environmental Protection. In addition, the buffer will sequester approximately one metric ton per acre of carbon per year for the first 25 years after its installation. The World Resources Institute and Environmental Resources Trust will assist the partnership with the estimation of the nutrient and carbon credits, respectively.
PEC will receive the annual nutrient, sediment and carbon credits for 25 years through a contractual agreement with the property owner, Lancaster General. In turn, PEC will transfer title to those credits for the same period to Exelon Corp., which is paying the project costs. The forested buffer will also be placed under a conservation easement with the Lancaster County Conservancy for the 25-year term.