The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy propose to team with Capital Region Water in placing a conservation easement on the DeHart Property in Dauphin County utilizing Fort Indiantown Gap Army Compatible Use Buffer funding. Ownership and management of the property will remain under Capital Region Water and the current level of public access to the property will not change.
What’s the timeline?
March 21st – Beginning of Public Comment
March 23rd – First Public Hearing at Capital Region Water’s Board of Directors Meeting
March 29th – Second Public Hearing at Derry Street Church – 1508 Derry Street
April 8th – End of Public Comment
What property will the proposal conserve?
This conservation project will cover the entire DeHart Watershed Property in Clarks Valley, Dauphin County, PA and encompasses the reservoir, lands below and around the reservoir, and watershed lands totaling 8,239.4 acres as listed in tax assessment records. The DeHart Reservoir is the drinking water reservoir for the City of Harrisburg and surrounding communities.
What is a conservation easement?
A voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits the specific types of property uses, most commonly land development. The landowner agrees to sell or donate specific rights, typically for the conservation value of the property. Another organization, most commonly a land trust, agrees to hold the rights to enforce the extinguishment or retirement of property rights.
Conservation value includes ecological, scientific, educational and aesthetic value in addition to utilization for potable water and certified forest management derived forest products. In this case, there is also a desire to protect the military mission of Fort Indiantown Gap.
What is the purpose of the proposed conservation easement?
- Ensure that the Protected Property will be retained predominantly in its natural, scenic, forested, and open space condition, free of additional forest fragmentation or additional development;
- to maintain excellent water quality in streams and wetlands on the Protected Property;
- to protect any rare plants, animals, or plant communities on the Protected Property;
- and to prevent any use of the Protected Property that will significantly impair or interfere with the conservation values or interests of the Protected Property described above.
Specifically, this Conservation Easement will assure long-term, professional, independent third-party certified forest management on the Protected Property for the production, management and harvesting of economically valuable timber and related forest products while ensuring the conservation values as described above are protected or enhanced.
What will be prohibited under the proposed easement?
- Construction of permanent facilities/structures/advertising outside of those related to the water system (exemptions made below)
- Utility poles, specifically sodium vapor lighting
- Ditching, draining, mining, road building, etc. (exemption for facility improvements and forest management activities)
- Removal of vegetation, planting of non-natives, use of fertilizers, grazing of animals, habitat disturbances (exemptions made below)
- Restriction on pesticide and biocide application (exemptions made below)
- Storage/dumping of waste materials, changing of topography
- Pollution, alteration, depletion, degradation of surface waters or activities detrimental to water quality or regulatory permits
- Motorized recreation (exemptions made below)
- Resource (OGM) extraction, transmission
- Subdivision of property with exemption of qualified organizations (e.g. DCNR)
- Inclusion of property not subject to easement terms for purposes of other land use or density needs
- Wind development/generation
What rights will Capital Region Water reserve under the proposed easement?
- Without limitation, to maintain, replace and/or construct facilities for supply, collection, production, distribution, treatment, monitoring and security of drinking water
- Undertake or continue any activity not prohibited in the easement
- Right to sell, lease, convey the property subject to easement terms
- Forest management activities conducted in accordance with the Forest Management Plan (FMP)
- Property must be managed in accordance with FMP approved by TNC
- FMP must meet Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards current at time of grant of easement
- Within 12 months complete a forest and carbon inventory, prepare 10-year FMP, enroll under TNC FSC Certificate
- If determined by a third-party audit to be out of compliance with the FSC FMP, conduct actions at CRW cost to certify the property or be removed from TNC group FSC certificate
- Harvest plans must be prepared and approved by TNC prior to harvesting. TNC and harvester to meet with CRW on-site prior to harvesting operation for review, also notification requirement
- This Paragraph is not to interfere with water production
- Mining of sand, gravel and rock for property infrastructure improvements in accordance with laws and BMPs and not in excess of two acres alone/four in aggregate
- Retain and control of public access
- Operation of motorized vehicles
- Solar energy and renewable energy projects on areas or infrastructure as approved by TNC
- Title to all environmental benefits, including ecological offsets
What are the Grantee Rights of The Nature Conservancy and US Army as a Third-Party Beneficiary?
- Right to preserve and protect conservation values of the property
- Right of entry (at reasonable times and with written notice) for conservation purposes
- Review and approval of forest management and harvest plans, written notice prior to harvest activity
- Ecological monitoring
- Enforcement to prevent or correct inconsistent activity
- Consent of TNC for prohibited activities or those requiring consent
- Availability to enter into separate agreements regarding ecological credits/offsets
- Request to aid in property management
Why consider this proposal?
The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy are uniquely positioned to support Capital Region Water in meeting all of its goals for the DeHart Property in an environmentally and fiscally sustainable approach. The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation will manage the establishment of the easement through the Fort Indiantown Gap Army Compatible Use Buffer program. The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation will compensate Capital Region Water for its conservation easement with Army Compatible Use Buffer funding. The Nature Conservancy will be the holder of the conservation easement while Capital Region Water will retain ownership and normal use of the property.
The conservation measures in this proposal will protect and enhance Capital Region Water’s high quality drinking water by preserving the capacity of the system to produce the resource. Watershed security will be maintained insuring the safety of the supply. Critical riparian buffer zones will be maintained and established through the easement. Water resources will be protected, including springs, tributaries, and wetlands. In addition, this proposal will complement existing drinking water operations and source water protection efforts conducted by Capital Region Water. This proposed conservation easement will support Capital Region Water in maintaining and enhancing long-term ecosystem health and viability. The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy will work with Capital Region Water to ensure the implementation of the proposed conservation measures will meet and/or exceed any federal, state and local requirements and best management practices. After an easement is recorded, the easement “Holder” monitors the conservation easement annually, documents performance standards, and works with Capital Region Water on maintaining their easement.
Who are the partners?
The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation (WBWF) – The WBWF is a non-profit that specializes in conservation projects to include military compatible use buffers. The WBWF is highly experienced in conservation easements and deed restrictions, having worked with corporations, public entities, and individual landowners on many easements. The WBWF is the primary partner for the Fort Indiantown Gap Army Compatible Use Buffer program and hence will be managing the Army Compatible Use Buffer funds and actions. WBWF is also the primary partner for Fort Pickett, Virginia ACUB program which has been recognized as one of the leading Army Compatible Use Buffer programs in the nation. WBWF has conserved thousands of acres that benefit landowners, the community, and military.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – TNC is an international environmental non-profit with experience in large projects that accomplish conservation, sustainability, economic benefits and will be the “Holder” of the conservation easement. TNC is currently working with a number of water authorities and other public/private entities on similar projects as this proposed Dehart project. To date, TNC has completed two projects with water authorities. The 23,000 acre Bethlehem Authority and 5,200 acre Lock Haven City Authority have placed conservation easements on their watersheds and both are under sustainable Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management plans. TNC is also working with the 4,000 acre Evitts Creek Water Company to establish a FSC Certified forest management plan over the next 24 months.
Fort Indiantown Gap (FTIG) – FTIG and the Army will be secondary partners with CRW in the conservation easement portion of this proposal. FTIG is an active Army National Guard base bordering Dauphin and Lebanon Counties and trains many different military services as well as federal and state agencies. FTIG is the second busiest heliport in the Army, and this aerial training at FTIG is critical to our national defense. FTIG utilizes flight patterns over the DeHart Property. The Army will be a 3rd party on the conservation easement document, meaning that it will be involved only if the easement holder does not uphold its easement monitoring and stewardship duties.
What is the financial payment to Capital Region Water?
Under the proposal, Capital Region Water will receive approximately $9 million through the Fort Indiantown Gap Army Compatible Use Buffer program to grant a conservation easement limiting development on the property. This payment is based on an appraisal of the property valued at $1,125 / acre. The total payment value will be dependent on a forth coming boundary survey.
Please note, the public comment period on this project closed at 4PM on Friday, April 8th.
Capital Region Water’s Board of Directors wanted to hear from the public before consideration of this proposal. Public comments were accepted between March 21 and April 8. Public comments were provided in person, by mail, by email and online. Inquiries were also addressed by telephone.
A press conference to announce the proposal was hosted on March 21. Two public meetings on the proposal were held on March 23 and March 29 to discuss the proposal. Each hearing included a presentation and time for public comments and questions.
Summary of public comments received:
Capital Region Water received 62 comments, including 31 customers and eight organizations. Of the comments received, 46 comments were in support of the DeHart Conservation Proposal and five comments were in opposition to the Proposal. An additional 11 comments were without express support or opposition.