On Oct. 22, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) approved H.B. 1565, which removes the 46-m (150-ft) buffer requirement for streams in the state’s most pristine watersheds. Since Nov. 2010, projects disturbing more than half a hectare (1 ac) were required to maintain a 46-m buffer around surface waters adjacent to the state’s “high quality” or “exceptional value” streams. Now, with the passing of H.B. 1565, the buffer requirement for projects requiring stormwater discharge permits has been reduced to 30 m (100 ft), and developers can substitute a same-sized replacement buffer elsewhere along special protection waters in the same watershed. They also must include other post-construction stormwater controls.
Buffers can be a cost-effective means of limiting erosion and helping to protect streams from stormwater runoff. The bill was opposed by environmental, conservation, and sportsmen groups. It was supported by state builders, as the bill gives builders and landowners more flexibility on projects in high-quality watersheds.