Welcome, Jake Cochran, our new Dirt, Gravel, and
Low Volume Road Technician!
Hi, my name is James (Jake) Cochran and I am the Dirt, Gravel, and Low Volume Road Technician for the Venango County Conservation District. I am originally from Franklin, Pennsylvania and attended Franklin Area High School. I graduated from Slippery Rock University in December of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geosciences: Geology. Just prior to this in the summer of 2022, I received geologic field experience through the University of Minnesota. I am an active member of the Geologic Society of America (GSA), Pittsburgh Geologic Society (PGS), and the Pittsburgh Association of Petroleum Geologists (PAPG). Through my time in college, I took up the family practice of oil and gas production in western Pennsylvania. The skills I acquired through this field of work assist me greatly with the tasks I now handle day-to-day at the Venango County Conservancy. My interests include outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking, and hiking as well as learning the local history of Venango County. I personally care greatly about the integrity of our local waterways and preserving them for future generations to enjoy. I look forward to continue assisting my local community alongside my team at the Venango County Conservation District.
Welcome, Haley Bechtel, our new Resource Technician!
My name is Haley Bechtel. I graduated from Oil City High School in 2018 and have lived in the Franklin/Oil City area my entire life. I graduated from Gettysburg College in May of 2022 with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Biology. While at Gettysburg I was a part of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service organization which focuses on volunteer work not only locally but also nationwide and globally.
In my free time I love to get outdoors and go hiking and kayaking in the warmer months. I also enjoy traveling and I have a bucket list goal to hike at all of the National Parks. I started on this goal over the summer by visiting both Acadia National Park in Maine and New River Gorge in West Virginia. In the winter months I spend my time reading and watching hockey games (Lets go Pens!).
Welcome, Karen Carey, our new Administrative Secretary!
Karen Carey grew up in the Bay Area of California and moved to Venango County in 2006. The beauty of the area and the opportunities it provided was what brought Karen to Franklin, PA. The many waterways provide ample fishing and boating, the trails provide beautiful backdrops to any walk or biking adventures, and the four seasons weather brings many opportunities for snowmobiling, four-wheeling, and camping, all of which are favorite activities of Karen’s.
Karen has been an active community member in Franklin for 17 years, currently serving the Franklin Retail Association as Treasurer. She has served as President of the FRA and also as Chairman of the Board for the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce. Sharing all that Venango County has to offer is Karen’s pride and joy. Working as the Administrative Secretary for the Venango Conservation District offers even more chances for Karen to share her love for Venango County.
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.
The Venango Conservation District recently received grant funding to help us pay for the installation of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) in Venango County. The funding was awarded to the district through the Northwest Commission’s Greenways Block Grant program which includes funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The goal of the grant is to install agricultural BMPs at an operation in Venango County that will help control storm water runoff that carry potential contaminants to the nearest stream.
Agricultural BMPs that will be installed as a result of the grant award will include a stabilized Animal Heavy Use Area (AHUA) and roof runoff controls & diversion.
Pictured here is the AHUA before construction at the barn entrance.
A stabilized Animal Heavy Use Area (AHUA) is a practice that addresses areas where animals often travel or stand. These areas tend to be near barn entrances or feeding areas. These areas most often consist of torn-up sod that is muddy and erosive. Vegetation often cannot take hold.
Pictured here the AHUA has been excavated to remove soils that were to heavily broken down to be of use. The area was shaped for a slope that will encourage storm water into a controlled drainage system.
This is a shot of an excavated trench where a pipe and clean stone will be installed. This controlled drainage system will carry storm water to a Vegetated Treatment Area (VTA) where vegetation will collect pollutant particles and will allow storm water to infiltrate.
Once the site was excavated to the desired shape, geo-fabric was installed and larger rock was placed. The materials in this step encourage drainage.
This photo shows that a layer of smaller stone was then placed and rolled in to create the stabilized pad. The pad is designed to withstand heavier animal traffic.
Construction work on this project will be on-going this summer. We look forward to bringing you an update to this post including photos of the finished BMPs.
(Harrisburg, PA) – Recognized by both the Pennsylvania State House and Senate, April 18-24, 2021 has been declared “Conservation District Week.” During this week, district offices across the state will hold events and meet with legislators in their home county.
Each county has a conservation district office except Philadelphia. These volunteer directors and staff address conservation concerns in their community. These are your neighbors who are working to prevent pollution in your backyard. That deserves to be celebrated! “Conservation district staff work every day to make a difference for Pennsylvanians,” said Brenda J. Shambaugh, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts. “Conservation District Week is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase conservation district projects across the state.”
Conservation districts thank Governor Tom Wolf and members of the PA House and Senate for supporting the districts through the state budget. PACD is requesting level state funding, which has not been increased for over fifteen years, but will offset conservation district costs associated with protecting the Commonwealth’s natural resources.
# # # The Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Inc. (PACD) is a non-profit organization whose guiding values include: Sustainable Resource Conservation; Integrity, Local; Education and Outreach; and Partnerships. PACD primarily serves as the collective voice for Pennsylvania’s 66 county conservation districts. For more information about PACD, visit www.pacd.org.
The Venango Conservation District is partnering with Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited and the Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads Studies to present two stream crossing replacement workshops.
The first workshop will be held on Wednesday July 8th 2020 at the Nature Lodge on Two Mile Run County Park starting at 9:00am. We'll spending the morning in a classroom style presentation where we'll talk about Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Roads Program site eligibility for stream crossing as well as program policy requirements. We'll also cover the program application process, engineering, planning and permitting, along with construction considerations.
The second workshop will take place on Union Street in Cornplanter Township on Thursday July 23rd starting at 8:30am. We'll meet at the site of a pending stream crossing replacement for this construction season. Well discuss the site and will highlight critical elements of construction.
Anyone interested in attending any or both of these workshops is encouraged to register with Lisette Lane by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning the district office at 814-676-2832.
Click here for an agenda for the July 8th workshop.
Click here for an agenda for the July 23rd workshop.
In the spring of 2014, a fish kill event at Kahle Lake in Venango and Clarion Counties prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct an evaluation of the watershed. DEP found that excessive nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen were present in the watershed. They determined that these excessive nutrients were most likely to have caused the fish kill event and that agricultural practices were the most likely contributors to the pollution.
The Pennsylvania DEP Regional Agriculture Watershed Assessment Program Initiative provided funding for watershed impairment improvements in one county in each of the DEP regions in 2014. DEP awarded funding to the Venango Conservation District through this program. The district was tasked with four aspects to correct this pollution problem. The district assessed and identified sources and potential sources of pollution in the Kahle Lake watershed. The district also worked to create corrective plans. The district worked to develop designs and engineering of Best Management Practices on agricultural operations and, through this funding were able to construct practices to reduce the nutrient overloading problem.
The Venango Conservation District was able to accomplish the scope of work outlined by DEP for the initiative. The district was then able to identify three additional agriculturally impaired watersheds in Venango County which could benefit from the same practices. Five agricultural operations were able to take advantage of the funding to construct Best Management Practices to reduce pollution.
This project was a success in large part because the district was able to coordinate with several organizations like DEP, the US Department of Ag Natural Resource Conservation Service, PennDOT, Team Ag and all the operation owners. All of these folks worked together to accomplish the scope of work for this project.
Best Management Practices(BMPs) can be used as a term to describe a type of water pollution control or treatment. Some practitioners also use the term BMP to describe both structural or engineered control devices and systems to treat polluted stormwater, as well as operational or procedural practices. For example, minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers or were and when these chemicals are applied.
In agriculture there are numerous BMPs that can be implemented on any operation or farm to control manure and sediment, stormwater, or chemicals. These BMPs first act as control devices to keep the clean water clean and capture and treat polluted water or divert and treat polluted water before it reaches our waterways. As rain water runs off our streets, parking lots, lawns, and other surfaces, it picks up pet waste, pesticides, fertilizer, oil, and other contaminants. If the water doesn’t evaporate or soak into the ground, it flushes straight into local creeks and rivers adversely affecting water quality and aquatic life.
Currents of runoff scour stream banks, destabilize the natural contours of the streams altering their depths. Eroded dirt from the runoff blocks sunlight from reaching underwater vegetation, and smother the aquatic homes of other life. As grasses and marine life die, fish and other creatures that rely on them are jeopardized. The runoff also carries nutrients that spur algae blooms, leading to low oxygen in the water resulting in fish kills.
The Venango Conservation District works with landowners who are involved in an agricultural practice with technical assistance or financially through finding grant funds. We received a grant for $18,000 to work with a landowner on installing BMPs on their farm. The funding was DEP Growing Greener distributed though the Northwest Commission. The BMPs designed to be installed will limit the amount of nutrient laden runoff leaving the animal area and divert clean stormwater around the premises limiting the pollutants entering a creek in Northern Venango County. Most creeks and open water in Venango County contain significant portions that are open to public fishing and are stocked with trout. Runoff from this farm not only effects the local watershed but then drains into the next watershed of Oil Creek which is within Oil Creek State Park.
*** If you are a landowner interested in any further information on how you can get technical assistance,***
questions answered or to inquire about potential grant opportunities,
call the Venango Conservation District or
email our Agriculture Technician at