The Venango Conservation District administers the Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Road Program in Venango County. The program provides funding to municipalities to install Best Management Practices (BMPs) that reduce pollution coming from rural roadways in the county.
Daylighting is a practice that is a part of a vegetation management plan for road maintenance. Good management of vegetation at roadways can reduce erosion and can save on future maintenance costs. Daylighting is the process of cutting back trees so the road is exposed to more light. By utilizing a daylighting practice on rural roadways a municipality may increase sunlight to the roadway, increase visibility for drivers, dry out soggy road surfaces and reduce annual trimming needs.
The Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Road Program’s primary focus is to reduce sediment pollution caused by rural road ways to local water bodies. To achieve that, a road needs to have adequate drainage where water has an opportunity to exit the roadway and to filter out before it reaches the water body as runoff. Daylighting can improve drainage function. By cutting back vegetation, the chances of leaves and debris clogging cross pipes and ditch lines can be reduced.
Soggy roadways can more easily erode if they never dry out and compact. By cutting vegetation back, sunlight can more easily reach the road bed, helping to dry out areas that tend to retain water. This practice reduces erosive soil that can pollute local waterways through runoff.
Daylighting is also a practice that can increase safety on a rural roadway. Cutting vegetation back can increase line of site for drivers. This practice also reduces the opportunity for vegetation to block road signs and to cause damage utility lines and guard rails.
The Venango Conservation District recently awarded funding to Irwin Township to perform daylighting practices on their Kerr Road and Byers Road. These roads are both dirt and gravel surface roads. The road surfaces tended to stay moist throughout the year, promoting erosion of the road surface.
The Venango Conservation District (VCD) employs Jane Price as the district’s Agricultural Resource Technician. The purpose of the position is to assist agricultural operators by providing technical assistance on such things as soil sampling, plan writing, providing Best Management Practice (BMP) information etc. One of Jane’s main jobs is to help operators with Nutrient Management and Manure Management planning.
MANURE MANAGEMENT PLAN (MMP) - In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, anyone who produces, spreads, hauls, or utilizes manure is required to obtain a Manure Management Plan. This plan is very simple and the VCD can help with writing plans. The plan compiles information about the operation, which includes maps, crop information, where/how manure is kept, and how manure is utilized on the property. Most importantly, the plan identifies any environmentally sensitive areas on the property.
NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT PLAN (NMP) - If an operation has an overabundance of animals or does not have enough land to spread all the manure being produced so that manure has to be hauled off the property, then the operation is required by the Commonwealth to have a Nutrient Management Plan. This plan is more complex and can be written by the VCD or a consultant that is NMP Certified.
WHAT – A Nutrient Management plan helps operators to better understand how they can best utilize nutrients on their property. These nutrients may consist of lime, fertilizer, and manure. Soil samples and manure samples help technicians determine when to apply and the quantity that should be applied. It is important that the operator knows this information so that they don’t over apply or apply at the wrong time. A technician can gather all the operator’s management practices information and nutrient values information. The data is used to compute what fields are utilizing the nutrients and to ensure that no excess nutrients become pollutants through runoff to local water bodies.
WHO – Some operations can have a NMP written for their operation voluntarily. Some operations are required by law to have a NMP. If a farm exceeds 2 animal equivalent units (AEU) per acre on a yearly basis, it is defined as a concentrated animal operation (CAO). CAO operations are required to have a NMP. Almost all NMPs in Venango County are Volunteer Animal Operations (VAO).
WHY – If a farmer is producing more manure than can be spread and is a CAO, the PA Law states that the farmer would need a NMP. A farmer would also need a NMP to receive certain funding. If the operator was interested in the NRCS EQUIP Program funding, then they would be required to have a current NMP in place. Some grants and agencies that are available to farmers require or will work with an operator to get a NMP before any more extensive technical processes happen or funding awarded. An operator may want to upgrade from a MMP to a NMP because they want to better understand how the nutrients on their farm can more effectively be applied and if time and money could be saved.
THE VCDS ROLE IN MMP AND NMP - To become a certified NMP Specialist for a conservation district and through the State Conservation Commission (SCC) a technician needs to complete a number of trainings and pass a state exam to become certified. The final step is to write and review a set number of NMPs that will be reviewed by other technicians that are certified. The number of plans a technician striving for certification must write and review is determined by the level of certification to be achieved.
Jane is currently working toward her final certification. She has written one plan for James McCall, whose operation is in Venango County. Mr. McCall owns 60 acres and has a 100-head beef farm. The operation is considered a VAO. He implements a rotational grazing system. He was able to install some BMPs with help from the NRCS EQUIP Program. He has some agreements with other local farmers for rented pasture that he moves his animals to for the grazing season. Mr. McCall sells his grass-fed beef to casinos in Erie and New York and to some local restaurants as well.
If you are a landowner interested in more information on how you can get technical assistance, or to inquire about potential grant opportunities, contact Jane Price at the VCD by phone at 814-676-2832 and by email at email@example.com.
The staff at the Venango Conservation District is so happy to be back to working from our office beginning in June of 2021. It was not easy being away, but during our time of working from home, the VCD Board of Directors and staff were busy working on securing a new home.
Two Mile Run County Park has been very generous over the years in providing us office space on the Park. Our office is located at 1793 Cherrytree Road, Franklin PA in a little house that overlooks the boat launch on Justus Lake.
We’ve been happily installed at that location since 2007, but now we’re looking forward to a place of our own. In October 2020, the district purchased the former Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic property. A design architect was hired and a contractor received a bid award to renovate the Clinic building so that we can utilize the space as our office. Once renovations are completed and we are able to move in, the Park can begin to utilize the little house we called a home as a rental space where visitors can stay.
The benefits of this move is to secure a location that is owned by the district. In this way we are less dependent on the County to provide a space for us. The new property at 4871 US 322 includes several garage spaces that will provide secure storage for our large equipment. The new office space is large enough for our staff to grow in the future. There is even enough room to hold meetings and educational programs.
The VCD is grateful to the Park for continuing to offer space for us until renovations are complete at our new property. We hope that visitors to the park who stay at our soon-to-be former office will be as happy with the location as we have been.