The Lancaster County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved $3.4 million for a water pollution mitigation project put forward by Lancaster Clean Water Partners, a coalition of organizations working on water-related issues.
The amount approved was $1.3 million less than the original request. Clean Water Partners reduced its ask after the commissioners expressed concern about committing so much money from the county’s $106 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation.
The money will be used for projects to reduce agricultural runoff into area streams, part of a larger effort to reduce high sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus loads that ultimately threaten the health of the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.
The county commissioners are considering proposals from local governments and private organizations for projects that would be paid for with some of the nearly $90 million in unspent ARPA funds.
Republican Commissioner Josh Parsons said Tuesday the board should act with “flexibility” on approving requests for ARPA funds until it has a better understanding of what other requests will be submitted. At Tuesday’s working session. Parsons said the Clean Water Partners proposal was too high to win his support.
Allyson Gibson, Clean Water Partners' director of planning and programs, said the group was able to cut its request after Ephrata Borough said it would cover $1.3 million of the project.
“It was part of the conversation originally, but with yesterday’s conversation here, (Ephrata Township is) making it a more formalized commitment,” Gibson said.
The commissioners did not approve a $3 million project put forward by East Cocalico Township to upgrade its sewer and water system, citing its high cost and questions about how the township is spending its separate ARPA allotment. Democratic Commissioner John Trescot said he’d like the board to review similar projects across the county before making substantial commitments.
A request for nearly $120,000 from Martic Township for a rail trail project to connect Conestoga and Providence townships was approved Wednesday.
“[It’s] one of the smaller requests, but having such a big impact on the community, the rail trail will have a very big economic impact,” Parsons said. “The more we make it up, the more we make it accessible, the better it is for Lancaster County.”
The trail project is anticipated to be completed by the fall.