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Proposed Pennsylvania Law...

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  • Proposed Pennsylvania Law...

    will require an erosion and sediment control plan for horse stables and other livestock farms with "Animal heavy use areas." These are areas of 5000 sf or more that cannot maintain adequate vegetation due to animal traffic. The definition is below;

    "Animal heavy use area--Barnyard, feedlot, loafing area, exercise lot, or other similar area on an agricultural operation where because of the concentration of animals it is not possible to establish and maintain vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods."

    The proposed update to PA Code Chapter 102 can be found at http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/dat...9-35/1610.html

    DEP is accepting public comment through November.
    Last edited by baytraks; Oct. 20, 2009, 11:49 PM.
    Carol

    www.HorseGiftsandArt.com offers a unique selection of horse art, jewelry, gifts, plush horses and equestrian home decor

  • #2
    It probably goes along with the stuff they have been doing over the past year or 2 in regards to fertilizer use and manure disposal on farms with more than x tons of livestock per acre. It all boils down to erosion and runoff issues into the Chesapeake watershed and efforts to clean it up...which is not really a bad thing............
    We got spot checked/inspected and surveyed (twice!) by the Ag department for the above. No problems here though as we have acres per horse and not the horses per acre they are targeting as the problem areas.
    Providence Farm
    http://providencefarmpintos.blogspot.com/

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      camohn, you speak with wisdom about the CAFO rules based on animal density, and the importance of protecting the Chesapeake and other creeks and streams from erosion and sedimentation. However, this is a new rulemaking, and there is no correlation to animal density.
      Carol

      www.HorseGiftsandArt.com offers a unique selection of horse art, jewelry, gifts, plush horses and equestrian home decor

      Comment


      • #4
        CAFO rules are regulated by the EPA, whereas the Nutrient Management Laws and E&S Laws (Erosion and Sediment control) are local/State laws.

        For anyone impacted by any of these regulations/laws- a wealth of information is available at your local ag extension office, county conservation district office, and USDA NRCS office. All listed in the blue pages or on google.

        Here in Delaware, we address a HUA (Heavy Use Area) as part of our Nutrient Management planning and allow livestock to rotate into the HUA area during inclement weather to help protect the other 99% of the property. We are mostly flat as a pancake here and have plenty of buffers and filters strips around our waters (generally speaking). PA may be trying to address the deposition of sediments into the waters by way of vegetating these HUA areas or at least requiring filter strips/buffers, etc between the HUA and the water bodies.

        Just a thought... as I haven't read the PA lawbooks.

        Comment


        • #5
          I hope someone can help with two concerns I have after reading the explanatory comments that preface the new regs:

          First, to know if my land constitutes an "Animal Heavy Use Area", I need to know what is meant by this language in the definition of that term:

          "vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods."

          Second, while I agree abundant scientific proof exists that a riparian buffer is an effective means of reducing pollutants in waterways adjacent to livestock areas, requiring a buffer 150' wide seems to be a huge change.

          Studies I've read suggest buffers of 35' are effective in reducing pollutants. A 150' buffer will render huge areas of pasture off-limits to grazing. This rule will be especially hard on the smaller farms here in Southeast Pennsylvania. Wouldn't a lesser width be more sensible?

          Thanks for any help!

          Confused in Chester County

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Pickering54390 View Post
            First, to know if my land constitutes an "Animal Heavy Use Area", I need to know what is meant by this language in the definition of that term:

            "vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods."
            I don't think there could be a concrete definition there but the way I read it, it means if you've got a paddock that you just can't grow grass on, that qualifies it as a heavy use area. For example, my sacrifice paddock. Grass will never grow in there.

            As far as the 150' buffer, the document said:

            "The rulemaking proposes 150-foot riparian forest buffers for permitted activities along Exceptional Value (EV) streams. Some of the members recommended that riparian forest buffers be mandatory for not only EV, but all waters, while others recommended that riparian forest buffers be used voluntarily."

            So I guess it depends on if you're near an EV stream... as of the current wording although it sounds like they want to make it ANY water.

            My questions are - 1) does the 150' buffer mean you cannot put horses within 150' of the stream, or does it mean you just can't have sacrifice paddocks within 150' of the stream? The latter would seem reasonable to me, while the former seems overly restrictive. And 2) I wonder if you already have pasture up against an EV stream, how do you get a riparian forest to magically appear in that spot? Lastly 3) They are seriously including no-till planting in this? That seems a little over the top to me.

            Comment


            • #7
              riparian buffers

              OldPony66

              Thanks for the reply

              I'm along a perennial stream in the Pickering Creek water shed which has been designated an High Quality Stream so this buffer issue is in my wheelhouse.

              I appreciate your reply and I do agree that an area so trampled that nothing can grow seems to meet the definition of an "Animal Heavy Use Area".

              Still, the definition, to my reading, goes further by stating that the inability to grow a "vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods" may lead to the designation AHUA. This suggests just any vegetative cover will not do.

              Can the Conservation District clarify this or is there some other source that explains what seems to be a subjective standard?

              Thanks

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Pickering54390 View Post
                Can the Conservation District clarify this or is there some other source that explains what seems to be a subjective standard?

                Thanks
                They'll be able to clarify some things - but you'll have to be careful because the quality of information you receive will depend largely on who is doing the talking.

                Generally, a vegetative buffer means just that. Think of it as a no man's land. (or no animal's land)

                Unless your area is adopting some new definition, it means no animal may be pastured in the vegetative buffer. Ever.

                Buffers are intended to mitigate the amount of nutrients and sediment entering designated waters.

                Vegetative cover may be defined as warm and cool season grasses, native grasses, or in many cases, grasses combined with native tree plantings. You do not mow it or maintain it - the purpose is to slow water passing through it. It is to be kept wild.

                In other cases, if one goal is to make the buffer more attractive to certain wild animals, conservation plantings can include certain types of native grasses and/or trees, nesting cavities such as wood duck boxes, that sort of thing.

                You also need to find out what they consider to be an animal unit. You'd think it was - one animal unit = one animal.

                But it's not. How your operation is categorized may depend on how many adult animals you have versus young, and what species.

                These types of restrictions and mandatory setbacks/ buffers are becoming more common; and that is both a good thing and bad thing.

                I'd encourage you to start becoming heavily involved in the process or you're going to be run over by regulations you may not have the money to implement.

                There are ways of funding the required improvements but you may or may not qualify, there may or may not be enough money, or there may or may not be tax implications associated with participating in those programs.

                No matter how you slice it your best course of action is to become involved while this is still in the planning/proposal phase. That is when the types of plantings, density of plantings, setbacks, and other specifics are ironed out.
                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                -Rudyard Kipling

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pickering54390 View Post
                  OldPony66

                  the definition, to my reading, goes further by stating that the inability to grow a "vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods" may lead to the designation AHUA. This suggests just any vegetative cover will not do.

                  Can the Conservation District clarify this or is there some other source that explains what seems to be a subjective standard?

                  Thanks
                  OK I get what you're saying now (sorry, sometimes I'm slow ) And yes it seems that while it would benefit us to know what they consider vegetative cover capable of minimizing erosion, I imagine it would be nearly impossible to list all the possible vegetative covers that could do that. By doing so, they give some OCD inspector too much control over your land, so sometimes less is more in the writing of that.

                  If they consider forest a vegetative buffer (many forests lack substantial ground cover) then certainly any grass cover should be fine.

                  I was thinking about this after my last post, and generally I'm happy to comply with laws to keep our environment safe and sound, but after reading in the paper today about yet another cluster of contaminated wells from gas well fracking, it makes me mad that WE have to worry about complying to keep the water clear downstream from us, but these big gas companies can come in to our backyards, poison us, and then leave. Anyway.... If they consider 150' buffer to include PASTURED horses, that seems a bit over the top and highly restrictive considering all the other activities that are allowed within that zone. If it were just sacrifice lots it would make more sense.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I will be commenting to the DEP. We have always been ahead of them with Manure Management, Rotational Grazing, not overstocking, etc. My problem with this particular law is when you have an older farm like mine (est 1850) the barn were built as near as possible to a water source, it just made sense. So for me to have 150' from any animal use area will be impossible. Even my HUA is closer than that, I have NO choice.

                    But I'm not going to get too excited, they have had liquid manure regs on the books for years now that they don't bother to enforce (yes, I know this personally) and as Oldpony66 noted, the gas companies are pretty much doing whatever they want as well. I did get an e-mail from the DEP saying they fined the Gas Co that fouled those wells, which is just a drop in the bucket for them. I sincerely hope they are now being much more attentive to the runoff and contamination from them.

                    It is easy to come down on a small individual operation. I'd be much more impressed if they cleaned up the major things first, giving us small (tiny) operations more time to voluntarily do what we can.
                    Facta non verba

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Some clarifications on buffer widths and what we do (this is a big part of my job in stream biology):

                      A small buffer does very little -- 30' to 70' (which is usually only one or two trees) will remove about 80% total nitrogen and phosphorus loads from runoff, if runoff is entering the buffer in sheet flow (another issue). However, it will not be adequate to maintain aquatic life in the stream, neotropical migrant birds, and it will not be able to deal with other pollutants.

                      You have to get up to about 200' of buffer to remove 80% of your total suspended solids, which are doing the most damage to aquatic habitats and water quality in the US. These are your sediment particles. Our agency recommends a 100' minimum forested buffer (which isn't really enough but it was the best we could get signed off on), increasing it to 200' if there are listed aquatic species there (which there often are, about 75% of freshwater mussel species are imperiled).

                      If you are serious about protecting wildlife, that buffer needs to be anywhere from 300' to 1000' for mammals, amphibians, and forest birds.

                      These don't have to be "no touch" buffers, we just need the forest to stay intact. And of course, the type and density of activity outside of the buffer needs to come into consideration too. If the uplands have intact vegetative cover and low animal density and the streambanks are in good shape, than we would give it a low priority. Operations with livestock access to streams, little or no vegetative cover to land, and higher animal densities get a much higher priority.

                      Just wanted to offer a little information from the biology side of the bench and how a resource agency goes about it. Of course, rulemakers routinely ignore out science and recommendations and come up with their own ridiculous things, which unfortunately, is out of our hands. Enforcement is terrible and water quality continues to degrade.

                      Yes, there are other impacts out there. Aquatic life is suffering a death by a thousand cuts and it's never the "fault" of only one thing. Every bit does help and remember, it's not just about the animals, it's also about your drinking water, because everyone is downstream from someone. :-)
                      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                      Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                      We Are Flying Solo

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thank you for that Wildlifer, it is always good to hear from those who actually work in the field in question. Very interesting stuff!

                        As much as we all might like to do everything we can to help wildlife, 300' to 1000' will be next to impossible for most of the mini farms out there, and very old established farms like mine. We actually have a spring under our house. It used to be you could access the water from the 'cold room'. We have closed that off, both for safety, and so the water stays uncontaminated, but I certainly can't move it.

                        We have been planting trees since the day we moved here, mostly along the fencelines to give wildlife a place to hide, and 'strain' the runoff from my pastures. I really don't think there is a lot of runoff from my undergrazed pastures, but we do live in a hollow.

                        Not to pick on just the Amish, but they do tend to either pasture, or garden every inch of their properties. A very nice Amish family just purchased twenty acres of woods across the street from us, and are busy ripping up every tree, to plant pasture and garden. They also planned on pasturing the right of way, because it currently is in grass. Thankfully, it was pointed out they were not the only owners of said right of way. At least that ROW will be a bit of a buffer for the homes and farms downhill from them. I'm just hoping they don't have too many large animals, even tho they are in a ag zoned district, and technically can have a CAFO.

                        My DH could actually make money off of this proposed law, as he can do E & S plans as part of his business. I'm all for it, as long as it is a reasonable, fair law, that is enforced evenly for Everybody.

                        As you said Wildlifer, someone always lives downstream from you.
                        Facta non verba

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