2.1 Commission Structure
The Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission (Commission) is a 14-member commission that has a primary mission to ensure the wise use of Pennsylvania's natural resources and to protect and restore the natural environment through the conservation of its soil, water, and related resources. The Commission provides support and oversight to the state's 66 conservation districts for the implementation of conservation programs in an efficient and responsible manner.
The Commission administers several state conservation programs including the Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program, the Nutrient Management and Odor Management Program, Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP Tax Credit) Program and the Leadership Development Program. Staff also provides oversight and professional certification for nutrient management specialists, odor management specialists and manure hauler and brokers.
The Commission is a departmental administrative commission under the concurrent authority of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the PA Department of Agriculture (PDA). The Commission is administratively housed with PDA. The Commission accomplishes its mission by working cooperatively with local, state and federal government agencies, numerous industry and professional associations and nonprofit organizations.
2.2 Program Administration
The Commission approves all policies affecting the districts regarding the Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program. The state-level staff consists of a program coordinator and support staff that provides oversight to the program.
2.2.1 Program Coordinator
The Commission, through the program coordinator, is responsible for the administration of the program. Districts and Center staff are encouraged to contact the program coordinator for answers to administrative questions on topics such as: program policy interpretation; funding advances; replenishment requests; questions on state policies; questions on two year spending requirements; questions about setting local policies; administrative issues regarding local projects; ombudsman issues – conflict resolution; and other general administrative issues.
2.2.2 Coordination with Other Agencies
The Commission works closely with local districts to implement the Program through a five-year agreement. The Commission allocates funds to the districts, answers administrative and policy questions, and acts as an ombudsman to resolve any disputes that arise. The Commission will periodically visit each district to perform a quality assurance/quality control (QAQC) evaluation to assure that the Program is administered properly in each individual county.
In addition to QAQC evaluations, the Commission requires an annual audit of all district funds including Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program Funds. The Commission may require other reporting to assure that the Program is properly administered.
The Commission also works closely with the Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies (Center) through a multi–year agreement, primarily for education, outreach, and technical assistance to Program participants. The Center’s role is detailed in Chapter 6 of this manual.
The Commission works with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), mainly through DEP’s conservation district field representatives (field reps). Field reps attend district board meetings and answer programmatic questions on a local level. Field reps also assist with programmatic activities such as the Annual Workshops. The Commission, DEP, Districts, and the Center work together on other programmatic issues such as permitting, erosion and sediment controls, etc.
The Commission also partners with other state and local agencies and organizations such as: PA Fish and Boat Commission; Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), PA Game Commission; PA State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS), PA State Association of Boroughs (PSAB), PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Trout Unlimited, and others.
2.2.3 Apportionment of Funds to Conservation Districts
22.214.171.124 Agreements with Conservation Districts
Funding is apportioned by the Commission to conservation districts through a five-Year contract that allows the funding transfer without initiating annual contracts or contract amendments (Appendix C)
126.96.36.199 Dirt and Gravel Allocations
Dirt and Gravel road funding is allocated based on a formula developed by staff with input from advisory work groups and approved by the Commission. The formula considers miles of dirt and gravel roads, number and length of identified pollution sites (worksites), local cost of limestone, and the miles of dirt and gravel roads in HQ/EV watersheds. The Commission approves district allocations for dirt and gravel roads maintenance annually. A copy of the formula and an explanation of how the formula works can be found at www.dirtandgravelroads.org. The Commission publishes the allocation of funds to the individual counties in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
188.8.131.52 Low-Volume Road Allocations
Like the Dirt and Gravel Road allocations, Low-volume Road allocations are allocated based on a formula developed by staff with input from advisory workgroups and approved by the Commission. The formula currently considers the actual miles of low-volume state roads, the potential miles of low-volume local roads, the distance of roads to a stream, and whether a road is located in an urban or rural environment. The Commission approves district allocations for low-volume roads maintenance annually. A copy of the LVR formula and an explanation of how the formula works can be found at www.dirtandgravelroads.org. The Commission publishes the allocation of funds to the individual counties in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
184.108.40.206 Apportionment Process to Conservation Districts
The Commission advances 50 percent of a district’s allocation as advanced working capital. Districts need to claim the remainder of their funds for replenishment after their advance has been spent. Districts have two years to spend or commit funds from the date of allocation. Details on the apportionment of funds from the Commission to districts are detailed on the Center's Conservation District Allocations page.
2.3 Quality Assurance / Quality Control
2.3.1 QAQC Structure
The Commission will periodically review districts' Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program to ensure that they are in compliance with the enabling legislation, regulations and policies. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the district’s administration, functionality, and project work within the Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program. The Commission will select districts for QAQC visits and notify them accordingly.
The visit typically consists of one full day at the district office and visiting field sites, followed by an exit interview the following day. The QAQC team may vary in member composition depending on the district being evaluated. The team is typically composed of personnel from the Commission, the Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads Studies and DEP.
DEP field reps have an important role in the QAQC visits and the subsequent follow-up that may be required. The field reps will be involved in administrative review prior to the QAQC visit. Field reps also play an important role after the QAQC visit by sharing successful strategies with other districts and insuring any recommendations for improvement are implemented by the district.
The evaluations are conducted based on three components of the Program: Program Administration, Program Functionality and Project(s). The outcome of the QAQC process will be written description commendations, recommendations, and if needed, required actions.
2.3.2 QAQC Visit
As part of the QAQC visit, the team will interview the district manager, the QAB members, and any district staff that is involved in fieldwork or administration of the Program. Members of the team may also conduct interviews with selected grant recipients in the county under QAQC review. A minimum of two completed sites will be visited by the QAQC team as part of the formal assessment. At the conclusion of the interviews and site visits, the assessment team will prepare a preliminary report that will describe the results of the team's visit. The team will discuss the preliminary report with the district manager and any district staff or board members, or QAB members who may wish to be present.
2.3.4 QAQC Follow-up
The district will have two weeks to submit written comments to the Program Coordinator. The Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program Coordinator will have two weeks from the closure of the comment period to collate and consider comments from those interviewed and prepare and distribute the final QAQC report to the district.
The final report of the evaluation may include a written list of recommendations or requirements that need improvement. In order for a district to remain compliant with Program guidelines and to remain eligible for future allocations, written recommendations and requirements, if any, must be addressed to the satisfaction of the Commission in a timely fashion.
Either the Commission or a district may request a re-evaluation of a District’s Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Maintenance Program after a minimum of six months have passed from the previous evaluation. Commission staff will communicate with field reps and districts regarding any required actions needed as a result of a QAQC visit to ensure they are implemented.