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Public Engagement is Key to Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Goals

A year from this month, the final draft of Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan will be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final review, approval, and enactment. Before that happens, though, a lot of work is set to take place in the coming months. As important as this document is, and its next steps for making sure Pennsylvania meets its pollution reduction goals by 2025, none of this can happen without you.

Conversations during January’s meeting of the Steering Committee for the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) began to lay out the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s public engagement strategy and communications around the importance of executing the important work of the WIP. To underscore this need, a new report out earlier this year reminded Pennsylvania policymakers that our Commonwealth has almost 20,000 miles of impaired streams, creeks, and rivers. Instead of focusing narrowly on the Chesapeake Bay, Pennsylvania and the WIP should focus on cleaning its local waters, which will, in sum, restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Local governments, planning commissions, county commissioners, township supervisors, and state legislators, will be critical to include in these discussions and buy-in moving forward and Pennsylvania agencies should work closely with nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations working in the field to reach all of the stakeholders.

We recommend DEP and its Steering Committee workgroups engage the public extensively to provide needed input and feedback on the draft local planning process. Along with including public-private partnerships and innovative groups and strategies, DEP and the WIP Steering Committee should identify key stakeholders to develop action steps at the local level.

This year, as DEP puts its pen to paper for the Phase III WIP, it should hold a number of hearings, windows for public comments, and several opportunities for Pennsylvanians to stand up for clean water and make their voice heard for strong targets. As the state government rolls out its public engagement strategy, citizens’ participation will make all the difference.

You have power and you should be at the table in our states’ decisions on how to cut back our water pollution. Stay tuned for more actions and upcoming opportunities.


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