"The Dirt"
A Resource for Local Conservation  
District Updates
Eric Konzelmann, Interim District Manager
The Montgomery County Conservation District expects to hire additional staff in 2017 to keep up with increasing requirements for our NPDES program , such as entering permit information into a new database for the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has provided conservation districts with new standard operating procedures (SOP) for Notice of Terminations (NOT) for NPDES Permits.  The new SOP requires increased review of submitted NOTs to ensure they are complete and correct before the final site inspection is conducted.  This will require a review of legal documents associated with the NOT, which will entail additional training for District staff. 

The District has recently taken on a higher level of delegation under DEP. 
We now have a delegation agreement to conduct technical review of Post Construction Stormwater Management plans.  The hiring of a Professional Engineer, Gary Kulp, P.E., was a key component for taking on these increased responsibilities. 

The District has also been busy working on outreach to golf courses to help them understand the potential impacts of their land uses.  The District hopes to work with golf courses throughout the County to improve management practices and implement projects to protect stream health.

Finally, we have opened registration for the 2017 Envirothon events, which will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

See the new website page and download our brochure, The Green: Golf Course Conservation
Learn about Envirothon!
Master Watershed Stewards Accepting Applications!
Krista Scheirer, Watershed Specialist
Our volunteer training program is accepting applications until February 15.  Wednesday night trainings will take place from April 5 to June 21, except for two weeks when we'll have Saturday morning field trips instead.

Master Watershed Stewards receive extensive training on water resource stewardship and then put their expertise to use helping and leading projects to protect and improve water quality.

The Master Watershed Steward program is a partnership between Penn State Extension, Montgomery County Conservation District and local conservation groups.

Master Watershed Stewards are making a huge impact statewide!  
Native Evergreen Trees of Pennsylvania
Karen Kinslow, Penn State Master Watershed Steward

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, an evergreen is “any plant that retains its leaves through the year and into the following growing season.”  In the Northern Hemisphere, evergreen forests are typically needle-leaved and coniferous.  They naturally occur in a variety of habitats, including forests, uplands, marshes, floodplains, and fields.

Homeowners, farmers, and municipalities are attracted to evergreen trees for various reasons, including their year-round cover.  When the leaves fall from the last deciduous tree as winter begins, the trusty evergreen stands out in its green magnificence.  Evergreen trees and shrubs provide good shade and are ideal for creating privacy or acting as hedgerows.  Some evergreen trees are aromatic, some bear fruit for that pop of color on a gray landscape, and some are fast-growing or easily transplanted.

We hope that Montgomery County residents interested in planting evergreen trees will consider the native varieties listed below.  Native plants are best suited for growth in this area and are most useful for local wildlife.  As an added bonus, most of our evergreen trees are relatively deer tolerant.  Some species require sun, and some prefer shade to survive and thrive. There is a native evergreen species to fit all soil varieties and site variations.        

For evergreen shrubs and perennials to keep your gardens looking lively, click here .  
American Holly
Ilex opaca

This tree, which can grow to 25-60 feet tall, has spiny dull green leaves, small white flowers, and bright red fruit.  Holly prefers moist, well-drained soil that is acidic.  Male and female plants are needed for the berries.

Thuja occidentalis

Arborvitae is commonly used in rows as a privacy screen, since it has a narrow growth pattern, but the deer can wreak havoc on them.  Arborvitae grows to be about 50 feet tall and is tolerant of many soil and moisture conditions.

Dirt, Gravel & Low Volume Road Grant Program 
Project Spotlight: Webber Road, Salford Township
Jessica Moldofsky, DGLVR Program Administrator

Salford Township completed a Low Volume Road improvement grant on Webber Road last spring. This project reduced sediment inputs from severely eroding banks to the adjacent stream- the East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek- improved the road surface and swale stability, addressed roadway safety concerns, and improved drainage and stormwater management.

Grant funding is available annually through the Conservation District to improve roadways while addressing environmental concerns. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis year-round. For more information, or to set up a site visit, contact Jessica Moldofsky

2016 TreeVitalize Highlights
Krista Scheirer, Watershed Specialist
Jessica Moldofsky, Ag Conservation Specialist
The TreeVitalize Watersheds grant program aims to restore tree cover and enhance water quality in the five-county region of southeastern Pennsylvania.   The District works with the PA Horticultural Society and funders- PA DEP and Aqua- to administer this program.   

Funded projects seek volunteer help to plant native trees and other plants where they will serve to improve water quality for years to come.  Planting sites are usually in buffer areas along streams or within stormwater basins, but any permanently protected site where trees will impact water quality would be eligible. 

Eighteen projects were funded for Montgomery County in 2016, and the District partnered to help two landowners enhance riparian buffers.
2016 Program Totals:
  • More than $93,000 of grant funding invested in Montgomery County
  • 3,063 native trees and shrubs planted
  • 25.5 acres restored
  • More than $84,000 of match from local partners 
  • 2557 volunteer hours reported

 Thank you to all our volunteers 
and partners for making these
projects successful!

First, we worked with the Stony Creek Farms Community Landscaping Committee to plant 275 trees and shrubs along a tributary to the Stony Creek.  In addition to protecting water quality, this project was undertaken to restore failing tree canopy, protect and enhance open space in the community, and to educate residents on the importance of native vegetation.

Next, we led a project on a preserved farm in Douglass Township to enhance the buffer along the headwaters of Schlegel Run.  We planted 75 trees and shrubs that will protect water quality, provide wildlife habitat, and compete with invasive reed canary grass at the site.  

The District looks forward to working with more farm owners, as well as golf courses and other large landowners to enhance their streamsides through this grant program. 
Contact us if you are a large landowner interested in performing a tree planting project.
Benefits of Holding a Pre-App Meeting
Cody Schmoyer, Resource Conservationist

Whether you are a homeowner required by your municipality to submit an erosion and sediment control plan for a project on your property, or a developer requiring a NPDES permit for construction, it is always beneficial to schedule a pre-application meeting with us.  

These “pre-app” meetings can help save time for both the designer and reviewer, and they are recommended as part of the Department of Environmental Protection's standard operation procedures.  A pre-app meeting helps give the reviewer a stronger understanding of the plan and indicates to the designer possible areas that need to be corrected before submitting.  These corrections and other suggestions from the reviewer should be documented in meeting minutes to be submitted along with your plan. 

We encourage the applicant to attend these meetings along with the designer to make sure everyone is on the same page.  Below are the beneficial reasons why holding a pre-app meeting will yield a more successful and streamlined plan review process.  

Pre-application meetings with the Conservation District can:

  1. Reduce the incidence of withdrawal due to deficiencies
  2. Assist in filling out permit paperwork correctly
  3. Lead to a better understanding of the NPDES permit process
  4. Clarify what actions need to be taken to meet permit conditions if receiving waters are impaired or a TMDL exists
  5. Review infiltration protocol and soil testing referring to appendix C of PCSM BMP manual
  6. Allow for summary review of volume credits being taken 
  7. Scan permit applications for potential loss of volume credits due to underdrains in BMPs
  8. Provide a preliminary review of worksheet 10 credits being taken and shown on the PCSM plan
  9. Allow a summary review for adequacy of the E&S and PCSM BMPs being proposed
  10. Help to give the reviewer a better understanding of the project and give the designer a better idea of what aspects of the design may or may not meet permit conditions
  11. Review construction sequences to ensure accordance with standard construction techniques, feasibility for the project, and proper BMP installation
  12. Run through the completeness checklist and highlight areas that are commonly completed incorrectly  
Species Spotlight: Chimney Swifts
Margaret Rohde, Naturalist at Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association
Chimney swifts ( Chaetura pelagica)  are one of the most distinctive bird species in North America, easily identified by their stocky silhouettes, chattering voices, and impressive aerial acrobatics.  They are an integral part of a healthy environment, and some of nature’s most effective pest controllers; one bird can devour more than 1,000 mosquitoes in a single day.

In the last few decades, however, chimney swift populations in the United States have dropped more than 50 percent – Canadian populations by 90 percent.  This alarming decline is largely due to habitat loss.
Unlike many birds, chimney swifts are incapable of perching and spend almost their entire lives on the wing – this means they also have very specific habitat needs. In the past, hollow trees served as nesting and roosting sites, but with industrialization – and man’s increased propensity to remove dead trees – they adapted to using human-made structures instead, thus earning their name.  But as alternative heating systems replace chimneys, new chimneys are constructed in a way that makes them unusable to swifts, and old, remaining chimneys are capped, swifts have fewer and fewer places to go.
There is some good news, however; across the country, conservation groups and Audubon chapters are working to create habitat in the form of artificial chimneys or ‘towers,’ which serve as essential nesting and roosting sites.  Swifts occupy these towers in the summer and roost in them – sometimes by the thousands! – during fall migration.  The most recent construction is underway at the Wissahickon Valley Watershed’s Crossways Preserve.  With any luck, the tower will be occupied this spring and fall. 

More reliant on man-made structures than perhaps any other species, chimney swift populations are also more easily helped by our actions than many.  If you have a chimney, be sure to have it cleaned in March, prior to their breeding season in May-August.  If possible, leave it uncapped until the winter.  And of course, spread the word about this amazing species and their need for conservation. 
Attend the Keep Farming Conference!
Friday, February 10

Franconia Heritage Restaurant

508 Harleysville Pike
Souderton, PA 18964

The "Quick and Dirty"
Winter Tips for Conservation
  • Snowmelt can act just like rain to carry pollutants to our streams.  Prevent dirty snow from getting to our streams by piling it in vegetated areas and away from storm drains.

  • Road salts are changing the chemistry of our streams and harming aquatic life.  Reduce salt use by shoveling before ice forms, and try sand or bird seed for traction.  If you do need a melting agent, consider mixing it with one of the above. Be wary of "environmentally safe" alternatives, as they may still contain salts or other potential pollutants, such as fertilizer.  

  • Practice responsible salt storage, and report uncovered salt piles to your local municipality or the PA Department of Environmental Protection at 484-250-5900.
"A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children."
– John James Audubon