"The Dirt"
A Resource for Local Conservation  
Most people who have just been introduced to us think we work with dirt all day, but that is no way to talk about soil- the living, complex media from which all life stems! Here at the Conservation District, we work to protect and improve our soil and water resources, which means reducing erosion, improving stormwater management, and enhancing our natural areas. Everything we do at the Conservation District serves Montgomery County residents by protecting our shared waterways, and that starts with protecting what’s on the land. We truly believe in the mantra “Think globally; act locally,” so we’ve created this semi-annual newsletter to be a local resource for conservation information related to Montgomery County. This is your place to find useful information that can improve your local impact on the environment.  Subscribe, share and enjoy “The Dirt.”
Message from the Manager
Gus Meyer, District Manager

One of the common themes of all Conservation Districts across the nation is the need/requirement for education and outreach.  Often, these efforts are thought of in the context of citizen outreach, whether it be a civic group or professional association.  Increasingly though, we are finding ourselves educating those that are directly involved in the processes of the programs administered by the District, from the municipality to the independent consultant.   For years, the Conservation Districts of Southeast PA have cooperatively published a newsletter known as “Conservation and You.” This is published through our non-profit organization, the Southeast Pennsylvania Resource and Development Council (SEPA RC&D Council).  At the end of last year, I discussed with staff the idea of creating our own newsletter, for multiple reasons.  These new ideas often cause eyes to raise and roll, not unlike a new regulatory requirement or process.  However, staff also know that I am a proponent of change, for the better.  I sincerely hope that you find this semiannual publication a change for the better.  While this newsletter is not a replacement of “Conservation and You,” it will hopefully serve as a complimentary source of information related to conservation.  With that, I offer some thoughts on the need for communication and cooperation in the effort of conservation.

Click here to read the full message.

  Photos Credit: PA Dept. of Agriculture
Click here  for more information about the Spotted Lanternfly threat and quarantine information.

Egg scraping and tree banding volunteer programs are available through the PA Department of Agriculture to monitor and stop the continued spread of the Spotted Lanternfly throughout the state. 
Pest Alert: 
Spotted Lanternfly
Jessica Moldofsky, Ag Conservation Specialist
The Spotted Lanternfly, native to Asia, is a new invasive pest of significant concern in the U.S. due to its potential to greatly impact the viticulture (grape), tree fruit, plant nursery and timber industries. First confirmed in Pennsylvania in September of 2014, the Spotted Lanternfly’s known range is increasing and is now confirmed in Montgomery County. Municipalities under quarantine as of June 22, 2016, in Montgomery County include: Douglass Township, New Hanover Township, Upper Hanover Township, East Greenville Borough, the Borough of Red Hill and the Borough of Pennsburg. A quarantine is in place to minimize the spread and destruction of the Spotted Lanternfly and includes restricted transport of many plant, stone and wood products.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is promoting early detection and compliance with quarantine areas.

The Spotted Lanternfly is most commonly found on Tree of Heaven, another invasive species.  However, it also chooses host plants such as apples, plums, cherries, grapes and several other tree species. Damage is caused to the host plant when the Spotted Lanternfly feeds, sucking sap, which can ultimately kill the tree. In the fall, the Spotted Lanternfly lays eggs in brown, mud-like masses of 30-50 eggs on trees or any other outdoor surface. 
NPDES Permit Application Update and Tips
Eric Konzelmann, Assistant District Manager
The Montgomery County Conservation District (MCCD) has seen an increase in applications for NPDES permits in recent months.  Many of the applicants are under time constraints to have their permit issued so that they may start their project.  Suggested guidelines for MCCD’s review time-frames are provided by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through standard operating procedures (SOPs).  Please note that the time-frames provided in the SOPs are “suggestions” and are not set forth by law or code, as is the case in some municipal reviews.  MCCD takes these SOPs very seriously and makes every effort to make sure plan reviews are done in a timely manner and in accordance with these SOPs. The SOPs also include provisions for when projects are withdrawn due to incomplete applications or technical deficiencies that are not corrected within a timely manner by the applicant and their designer.  Some of the best ways to ensure a project is reviewed and the NPDES Permit issued in the most efficient and timely manner include: 
  • Conduct a pre-application meeting with MCCD to ensure the initial design is in compliance with Chapter 102 regulations to the maximum extent upon the first submission; 
  • Do not make design considerations based on review comments; 
  • Plan ahead in regards to applicable review time-frames and consider the time it may take for design revisions before resubmitting to MCCD; 
  • Ensure proper fees are submitted with each plan submission; 
  • Submit complete plan sets for each plan re-submission; 
  • Use Chart 5b, which provides many of the technical details to be reviewed on one simple and comprehensive chart; and
  • If participating in the Expedited Review Program, please read fully the expedited review policy available on the MCCD website for more information and before requesting to be involved in the program.
MCCD has signed an agreement with DEP to take on stormwater management and hired a Professional Engineer, Gary Kulp, in February 2016 to assist with these duties. District staff, along with our District Engineer, will be making technical review comments on post-construction stormwater management plans.  Applicants and designers can expect new comments they may not have received in the past.  These comments will be based on minimum design criteria, per the PA Stormwater BMP Manual.  Chart 5b is an excellent resource to provide design assistance and to streamline the review process. 

Click here for a reminder of our fees and policies.
Better Roads, Cleaner Streams:
A Look Inside the Dirt, Gravel & Low Volume Roads Grant Program
Jessica Moldofsky, Program Administrator
Pennsylvania's Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Roads Program provides local road-owning entities with grant funding for road and environmental improvement projects on unpaved and low-volume (500 cars a day or fewer) paved roads.  High priority will be given to projects that include stormwater management and drainage improvements to implement long- term fixes to reduce erosion and pollution to adjacent streams. Sediment is the largest pollutant by volume to the waters of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Project focus through this grant program is on improving roads in order to reduce sediment and pollutant runoff to streams while improving road surfaces, reducing maintenance and improving road safety. 

An applicant eligibility requirement for the program is certification in a two-day, Penn State course titled Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance . All municipalities are highly encouraged to attend the course to become eligible to apply for grant funding and learn more about environmentally friendly road practices.  Classes are held annually.
Click here for more information.

Gravel road project on Church Road, Marlborough Township
Swale improvement project on North Dietz Mill Road, Salford Township

The grant application process is very simple and painless. Grant applications are considered on a rolling basis, and interested applicants are encouraged to contact our Program Administrator, Jessica Moldofsky, prior to applying. The Conservation District is happy to provide technical assistance in selecting project sites, designing road improvement projects, and filing out grant paperwork. 

Species Spotlight:
Milkweed for Monarchs
Krista Scheirer, Watershed Specialist
Photo Credit: B. Ziniewicz and Ern st
The Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus , is a national icon, and east of the Rocky Mountains, it is a symbol of summer. That is because each year, Monarchs migrate over 3000 miles to over-winter in California and Mexico, before returning to our area for the warmer months.  No other butterfly makes such a journey. However, monarch populations have  drastically declined, and the species may become extinct in the next generation if we do nothing. 

So why is this happening? Monarch larvae feed almost exclusively on milkweed plants, and therefore, need it to survive. The milky sap of the milkweed plant confers its poisonous properties to the Monarch, which helps it survive by deterring predators. The butterfly’s bright orange color serves as a warning signal of its toxicity. Imagine what would happen if there were not enough milkweed patches for Monarchs to feed and lay their eggs? The Monarch caterpillars would not survive, and their population would decline.  Because of extensive pesticide use, and the general treatment of milkweed plants as “weeds,” that is exactly what is happening.

If we want future generations to continue to enjoy the sight of this iconic species, we must replant milkweed and other native plants. There are several species of milkweed that can help: Common Milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca ), Swamp Milkweed ( Asclepias incarnata ), and the aptly named Butterflyweed ( Asclepias tuberosa ). These plants could make beautiful additions to your garden, and will attract other beneficial insects as well. Just be sure to research the individual needs of the different species before making selections.
Another thing that has compounded the issue for Monarchs, as well as other butterfly species, is our affinity for the purple, fragrant flowers of butterfly bush ( Buddleja ), which is NOT a native plant. Butterfly bush, as an exotic species introduced from other parts of the world, has the potential to spread to natural areas and become an invasive weed. This means it can take over areas where it does not belong and destroy local ecosystems. People love to plant butterfly bush in their yards, because its pollen lures in butterfly species, making for quite a show, but the plant does not provide any food for butterfly larvae. Therefore, butterflies have to spend extra energy finding a suitable place to lay their eggs, and any eggs lain on butterfly bush do not survive. 

Unlike butterfly bush, milkweeds and other native plants make happy, healthy caterpillars. 
Amended Soils and Engineered Filter Media
Cathy Leonard, Resource Conservationist

Designers often alter the native soil on project sites to achieve a variety of goals.  Amended soils are created when a large percentage of organic material is added and mixed with existing topsoil to increase its water holding capacity and to promote vegetative growth. Amended soils are placed on disturbed areas with poor topsoil that will become lawn, recreation fields, open spaces and other areas.

Another type of design is engineered filtration media.  These mixes of sand with soil or compost are placed in bioretention and infiltration basins to achieve two primary goals:  to increase the infiltration volume and to filter pollutants from stormwater.  They are often composed of mostly sand with small additions of fine materials and organic matter.  

Click here to learn about using these soil mixes properly and selecting the right specifications for your site.
2016 Envirothon and BioBlitz
Krista Scheirer, Envirothon Coordinator
  Montgomery County Conservation District hosted three Envirothon events this spring in an effort to provide free environmental education for local students. Approximately 300 students participated in the events, which were held for the high school, middle school and elementary school levels. Students attend four stations: Wildlife, Forestry, Soils and Land Use, and Aquatic Ecology. 

Both the high school and middle school events also included a competition component.  At the high school event, Perkiomen Valley High School came out on top, and moved on to represent Montgomery County at the PA Envirothon competition. Lower Merion and Souderton High Schools clinched second and third place, respectively.  At the middle school event, the top-scoring team was from Arcola Intermediate School, followed by second-place Pennbrook Middle School and third-place Spring-Ford Seventh Grade. 

The middle school students also took part in a National Geographic BioBlitz , which is an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area.   Kristin Byers from the PA Alliance for Geographic Education led a station where students used GPS units to take photos of as many species as they could find.  They made 242 observations and found 34 unique species at the County park. After the event, the photos were uploaded to iNaturalist, an app that helps to identify the species.

Photos Credit: Jen Isett

Envirothon helps shape participants into good stewards of our world, and it is a great opportunity for students to get outside and learn from environmental experts. Partners for this year's Envirothon included educators from Montgomery County Parks, Trails and Historic Sites, PA Game Commission, PA Fish and Boat Commission, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Penn State Extension, Elmwood Park Zoo, and the PA Alliance for Geographic Education. Volunteers from the PA Department of Environmental Protection, and Montgomery County’s Health Department and Planning Commission, helped to put on the  educational event.  Envirothon is free for schools to participate and is funded through a mini-grant from Pennsylvania Envirothon, Inc., as well as donations from local supporters. 
"The Quick and Dirty"
 Fun Facts and Tips for Conservation
  • 5 tons of soil spread over one acre is about the thickness of a dime.

  • Fully functional topsoil can hold 2,200 tons of water per acre, which equates to 526,316 gallons or 70,363 cubic feet.

  • Rule of thumb:  6 acres of impervious surface will create approximately one acre foot of water (43,560 cubic feet) during a 2-year storm event (~3 inches in 24 hours). 
“Man despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication and his many accomplishments
owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”

- Anonymous