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Chiques Creek Restoration Initiative: An Alternative Approach to the Traditional TMDL

In the most recent list of water quality assessments released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) as required by the Clean Water Act, approximately 50 miles of streams within the Chiques Creek Watershed in Lancaster County were listed as impaired. Most of this impairment was caused by excessive sediment and nutrients in the streams.

Over the years, PADEP has focused on watershed management techniques and processes that take a comprehensive approach to water pollution control to address polluted runoff or nonpoint source pollution, as well as point sources of pollution. After water quality problems are identified, a planning process occurs to develop strategies that can successfully address and correct water pollution problems in the watershed. Pennsylvania is using this process, in conjunction with federal Clean Water Act requirements, for establishing Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, to clean up polluted streams so that they meet water quality standards.

TMDLs can be considered to be a watershed budget for pollutants, representing the total amount of pollutants that can be assimilated by a stream without causing impairment or water quality standards to be exceeded. The TMDL process allocates the amount of pollutants that can be discharged into a waterway from each category of pollutant source. Once a TMDL is approved, it is often left to the local watershed groups and citizens to develop an implementation plan for TMDL with PADEP assistance.

Interested partners and stakeholders will work together to develop an alternative approach to traditional TMDL development for Chiques Creek Watershed. This pilot process will be a comprehensive effort to understand nutrient and sediment sources, identify tools and solutions to diminish inputs, implement and/or provide technical/financial assistance to implement projects, and monitor effectiveness of project implementation.

Throughout the process, checkpoints will be established to evaluate progress and make adjustments to the approach in support of the adaptive management model. Upon successful completion, the model will be implemented in other areas.