Bailiwick News – January 17, 2019

Reader Editorial – On the lack of enforcement tools within the proposed Spring Creek Water Resource Management Plan – 1.17.19 Bailiwick News

By David Roberts and Terry Melton

David Roberts, Mike Costello and Michal Stump presented a version of the following prepared comments to the Spring Creek Watershed Commission during the commission’s January 16, 2019 meeting, held in Bellefonte.

Good evening. My name is David Roberts, a resident of Benner Township. I am here this evening to provide public comment to the Spring Creek Watershed Commission on behalf of the Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition.

We wish to commend the Commission’s actions in 2018 to advance the long overdue Spring Creek Water Resource Management Plan project.

However we also wish to express several concerns about the current direction of the plan’s development.

During the Commission’s public presentation of Phase 2 of the Water Plan on December 4, 2018 it was indicated that the Commission does not intend to propose mandatory and enforceable standards applied across township boundaries and that participation by local authorities would be voluntary.

It is the position of the Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition that if the Commission limits the scope of the Plan to a strictly voluntary measure that does not include and implement enforceable standards, the project is unlikely to result in an effective and successful water plan.

During the December meeting, a suggestion to the Commission to use the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Act 247 of 1968) as authority for the implementation of enforceable standards was met with resistance and with the supposition that such actions would require revision of the Act.

However the Act’s stated purpose provides for the empowerment of municipalities to plan their development and to govern through zoning and other ordinances.

Act 247 not only authorizes but requires each county to have a “plan for the reliable supply of water.” P.L. 805, No. 247, Article III, Section 301(b).

The Act permits municipalities to take action to minimize foreseen problems, to assure the availability of reliable, safe and adequate water supplies, and to provide for protection of natural resources. Further the Act provides that a municipality may amend its comprehensive plans at any time.

In addition to the requirements of the Act, Centre County’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan includes sections addressing surface water and groundwater which encourage communities to adopt zoning regulations that protect ground and surface waters including zoning to limit impervious surfaces, protect recharge areas, adopt stream corridor overlays, modify development and zoning regulations to include conservation design provisions, make the protection of water resources a priority through regulations, and in general to encourage municipalities to prohibit certain types of activities in certain areas.

Zoning and other ordinance measures promulgated under the Act’s authority can be used to develop an enforceable and an effective water plan. The overall purpose of ordinances under the Act is to promote, protect, and facilitate many aspects of our community’s needs including the provision of safe, reliable, and adequate water supplies, and the preservation of the natural, scenic and historic values in the environment such as forests, wetlands, aquifers and floodplains.

Phase 3 of the plan should include provisions promulgated under authority of the Act as a means to develop an enforceable Plan. Proposals for the County and local municipalities to adopt enforceable standards for the management of the Spring Creek water resources are quite realistic and are not prohibited by a need to amend the Act.

As an example, York County’s Integrated Water Management Plan is based on Article III of the Act. Chester County also has an excellent water management plan based on the Municipalities Planning Code.

York County’s Integrated Watershed Management Plan was prepared on behalf of and officially adopted by the York County Commissioners as an official amendment to the York County Comprehensive Plan.

We recommend that the Commission structure the process going forward to adapt the York County plan for Centre County’s hydrogeology, legal frameworks, and water use, and present it for adoption by the Centre County Commissioners as an update to the 2003 Centre County Comprehensive Plan.

Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition respectfully requests a response to several questions:

1) The Spring Creek Watershed Commission is currently underfunded and understaffed. Does the Commission plan to seek additional funding to support their mission of managing the watershed plan? Such ongoing funds would be in addition to the proposed funds necessary to commission a consulting firm for the development of Phase 3 of the watershed plan.

2) Why does Phase 2 of the plan state, “there will be no change in governance”? If there is no change in governance, no legal jurisdiction, and no means to enforce the plan, what obligation will local authorities have to follow the plan for the protection of the regional watershed?

Since the Spring Creek Watershed Commission as an advisory body with no legal authority to enforce a watershed plan must rely on the cooperation of many local authorities to determine how our regional water resource is utilized and protected, how can the public have any confidence that a watershed plan, which will cost a great deal of money to develop, will be followed?

Respectfully, we suggest it is somewhat naive to expect mere recommendations to be followed voluntarily if the Commission has no legal authority to enforce the plan. Does the Spring Creek Watershed Commission intend to be an advisory body only?

3) A key and critical fact of our watershed is that all of the water in Nittany Valley comes from the rain and snow falling on the land surfaces between the surrounding Nittany, Tussey, and Bald Eagle Mountain Ridges that drain to the karst limestone valley floor.     Our water is limited and vulnerable since we have no river running through our valley to bring water from a broader watershed.

How will voluntary participation by a multitude of water and sewer authorities, townships, and other political organizations result in a successful water management plan for the entire Spring Creek Watershed?

4) Proposals have been made by members of the Commission’s technical workgroup to utilize underground mines as reservoirs for the storage of water in the future as a hedge against extreme drought and to rely on beneficial reuse of waste water for the rapid development of Nittany Valley.

These proposals, although interesting, have many unanswered questions concerning their feasibility, would require many years to accomplish, and would have a tremendous expense for infrastructure. Will the Commission members keep an open mind to more cost effective and feasible green measures that have been proven to be effective in other watersheds and not limit the direction of the Plan’s development to long term costly infrastructure projects?

5) There are many organizations available to assist in the development of our integrated water management plan based on existing successes. Will the Commission be open to help from established water resource planning organizations?

6) The Pennsylvania Environmental Council will be holding a two day watershed seminar, “Watershed Connections: Leveraging Our Power for Watershed Health”, in State College on February 24 and 25. Does the Commission plan to send representatives to participate in this important state conference?

We are relying on the Commission to remain open to public input concerning the development and the implementation of the Plan.

Thank you.


Bailiwick News published limited reporting on the Spring Creek Watershed Action Plan (See June 29, 2018 Bailiwick News).

Early in the process, at the kickoff meeting July 10, 2018, public input supported enforceable legal tools with “teeth” to protect water and water-dependent ecosystems.

However, shortly after the July 10 meeting, the SCWAP drafting process was closed to the public, and limited to an invitation-only list of individuals who met privately in August, September and October. The process re-emerged into public view in December 2018, with a Spring Creek Watershed Commission public presentation of the results of the private meetings.

Bailiwick News – Volume 3 Preview – Centre Region Inverted Totalitarianism

I might write and publish a few more Bailiwicks before the end of the year, on the Beta Theta Pi prosecutions; the Slab Cabin Run water and farmland protection campaign (aka Toll Brothers/COG “Shitwater Mills” public-private partnership project in Ferguson Township); the Spring Creek Watershed Commission’s languishing Spring Creek Watershed Action Plan update process; Penn State’s corporate governance, tax exemptions and profiteering; and/or a couple other topics.

Might not. Covering public corruption in Centre County is, as they say, like trying to drink from a fire hose.

Looking ahead to 2019, for Bailiwick News Volume 3, I’ll be delving into the ways in which local governments in Centre County – as structured by the Pennsylvania Constitution and related state laws – represent examplars of inverted totalitarianism.

The term was introduced by Sheldon Wolin in 2003, to describe political systems – managed democracy – in which managerial skills are applied to basic democratic political institutions.

“…By using managerial methods and developing management of elections, the democracy of the United States has become sanitized of political participation, therefore managed democracy is “a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections that they have learned to control”.

Under managed democracy, the electorate is prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state because of the opinion construction and manipulation carried out by means of technology, social science, contracts and corporate subsidies.

Managerial methods are also the means by which state and global corporations unite so that corporations increasingly assume governmental functions and services and corporations become still more dependent on the state. A main object of managed democracy is privatization and the expansion of the private, together with reduction of governmental responsibility for the welfare of the citizens…”

Bailiwick coverage will likely focus on three intertwined issues: presenting evidence that the Centre Region Council of Governments is an excellent case study in managed democracy sanitized of citizen impact; exploring what proportion of the citizens of the Centre Region understand and explicitly consent to being managed in this way; and exploring how those who understand and yet do not consent to living under an inverted totalitarian local government might craft tools to change the form of government under which we live.

Quick Update re: the Shit Pit

COG General Forum met this evening as scheduled.

By unit vote, the five municipalities that participate in the regional parks program voted to endorse the easement, thus clearing the way for Toll Brothers contractors to start blasting and excavating in the Harter-Thomas recharge area in the coming weeks, and to ultimately build a large sewage holding tank and high-pressure sewage pipeline about a mile from our main public water supplies.

There is a lot of information to process, research and write about in coming days as construction and operation unfold, and as the political, public health and ecological consequences come into sharper view.

Some numbers to think about, for those interested in math:

  • 1,093 x 100 gallons per day = 109,300 gallons per day sewage flow, using DEP 1997 Domestic Wastewater Manual. 109,300 gpd is greater than the 50,000 gpd trigger for public notice back in 2014, which didn’t happen.
  • 1,093 x 70 gallons per day = 76,510 gallons per day sewage flow, using an extrapolation of the UAJA per capita sewage flow factor (1 EDU = 175 gallons per day per 2.5 people per household). 76,510 gpd is greater than the 50,000 gpd trigger for public notice back in 2014, which didn’t happen.
  • 268 apartments x 175 gallons per day per EDU = 47,950 gallons per day sewage flow, using UAJA’s EDU system of 1 EDU per dwelling unit, regardless of occupancy. 47,950 gpd is less than the 50,000 gpd trigger for public notice, and it’s the calculation actually used on all currently available sewage planning documents. For 1,093 residents, this amounts to just under 44 gpd per capita.
  • According to Cory Miller of UAJA during this evening’s meeting, the DEP authorized the Centre Region in 1996, through the Act 537 Plan, to use the EDU calculations of de facto 44 gpd instead of the 1997 manual’s 100 gpd calculation method, regardless of actual populations to be served, because we’re apparently extra good at water conservation around here, and our infiltration rates (the amount of stormwater that seeps into newly-installed conveyance pipes), is so very tiny. Further research needed to confirm or refute Miller’s assertions.
  • Miller also stated a “safety factor” of four (4) has been used in this project design. Whether the appropriate safety factor is the same in all settings, under all geologic and climate conditions is another question for further research.
  • In any case, the pump station, wet well and high-pressure pipeline as designed for the Cottages and now government-approved by Ferguson Township (December 2015), DEP (January 2016), UAJA (August 2018) and COG General Forum (this evening) are sized for 47,950 gallons per day, with a maximum peaking load capacity of 4 x 47,950 = 191,800 gallons per day.
  • If it turns out that the actual daily load is 76,510 gallons per day (at 70 gpd per capita) then the peaking load will actually be 306,040 gallons per day, and the pump station as designed and government-approved will be undersized by 114,240 gallons per day.
  • If it turns out that the actual daily load is 109,300 gallons per day (at 100 gpd per capita) then the peaking load will actually be 437,200 gallons per day, and the pump station as designed will be undersized by 245,400 gallons per day.

Feel free to check my math. (I’ll check it tomorrow too).