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Time to try some new strategies to clean up bay

Clean water. That should be the goal for the planet and its inhabitants. And that should be a concern to everyone living in Pennsylvania, which has 85,000 miles of rivers and streams.

One fourth of the state’s waterways are “impaired,” which means they are not safe for drinking, recreation and aquatic life. In the area of the state that is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 31 percent of streams are impaired. And in Lancaster County, 50 percent are impaired.

Those numbers were provided by the Chesapeake Bay Commission, whose chairman this year is state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township.

The commission has a huge challenge to meet the mandate for pennsylvania to reduce its annual nitrogen load by 32 percent, from 107 million pounds to 73 million pounds annually, by the year 2025.

Much work already has been done to clean up the bay watershed in the state, but more is needed. Measurements taken in 2015 showed that Pennsylvania has made only 20 percent of the progress it should have made by then. Officials say it will cost $325 million more a year on top of what it already is spending for the state to meet its 2025 goal.

Clearly, officials need to focus on Lancaster County, which has twice as many dairy cattle as the state of Maryland.

At the same time, other bills take aim at the program and should be moved forward.

First would be a procurement bill that would pay for results from initiatives that would reduce the nitrogen load.

A second promotes stream cleaning initiatives.

A third bill calls for the state Department of Agriculture to rewrite the fertilizer laws.

The latter takes a look at the levels of nitrogen used to fertilize lawns and golf courses. Reducing the nitrogen content in fertilizer, according to Yaw, will not make any appreciable difference in how a lawn appears. At the same time, the amount of nitrogen that pollutes streams through runoff would be reduced.

If it makes a difference in how clean our water is, it’s worth trying.

The only question is, why hasn’t this been tried before?

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