PEC and Others Celebrate a Decade of Growing Greener Watersheds – Earn $250 for your watershed group

The Growing Greener Watershed Restoration Program will be ten years old in December and to help celebrate 10 groups have come together to invite watershed groups to share their success stories on a specialĀ website. As an incentive, a $250 grant will be given to the watershed group with the best article and photo or video each month through December.

Funding for the grants was provided by an anonymous benefactor.

The groups partnering to sponsor the celebration include: the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Stream Restoration, Inc., the Western Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Eastern Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the PA Association of Conservation Districts, LandStudies, Inc. and PA Environment Digest.

On December 15, 1999 Gov. Tom Ridge and the General Assembly created what continues to be the largest single investment in cleaning up and restoring the environment in Pennsylvania’s history– the Growing Greener Program.

The program started out by investing nearly $645 million over five years in watershed restoration, preserving open space, investing in parks and recreation, reclaiming abandoned mines and plugging oil and gas wells and upgrading sewer and drinking water systems.

In 2002, in the recession following September 11, Gov. Schweiker and the General Assembly expanded the basic Growing Greener Program by adopting a new $4.25/ton fee on municipal waste disposed in the state to expand the program to $1.3 billion through 2012.

In 2005 Gov. Ed Rendell and the General Assembly passed Growing Greener II, allocating existing funding and a voter-approved $625 million bond issue for the basic Growing Greener Program and adding initiatives to encourage alternative energy, historic preservation and economic development, brownfields reuse and a local county program which ends in 2011.

At its core, Growing Greener fundamentally changed the state’s approach to cleaning up our rivers and streams by empowering community-based watershed groups to take their own initiatives to clean up their watersheds using local partners.

The change was needed because of a change in the kind of water pollution affecting our streams. The Department of Environmental Protection found 96 percent of the streams in Pennsylvania did not meet water quality standards because of abandoned mine land, farmland and stormwater runoff, not wastewater pipes discharging into our rivers.

These kinds of problems could not be attacked the same old way. A new grassroots partnership was needed and Growing Greener provided the tools to do it.

The strength of Growing Greener has always been the hundreds of watershed groups with thousands of volunteers who care about their watershed and want to make it better. For every $1 given to watershed groups over the years, they added at least $1.25 to more than double the Commonwealth’s investment in watershed restoration.

The Growing Greener Program has been honored nationally and by state and local groups. In 2001 the Council of State Governments recognized the program with its coveted Innovations Award as a model for other states to follow. The Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Professions recognized Growing Greener with a Karl Mason Award in 2003.

But now it’s the time to celebrate and tell your story!

Visit the website and learn how you can earn $250 for your watershed group by sharing your Growing Greener success story. Look over the history of the program and see the stories, photos and videos already posted there.