"If what we are trying to do works here, we believe it can work in tributaries throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed," said Matt Royer, director of the Lower Susquehanna Initiative for Penn State's Ag and Environment Center. (For a look at the importance of the Bay cleanup, please see http://southeastfarmpress.com/government/chesapeake-bay-cleanup-threat-us-farming-0).

The Conewago, which marks the county line between Dauphin and Lancaster counties, is not victimized only by agricultural runoff. While there are around 270 farms in the watershed, the creek also receives stormwater runoff from development.

Royer seems to be a good choice for the job. A lifelong resident of the watershed, he started a Conewago watershed group eight years ago — the Tri-County Conewago Creek Association. Using grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the organization mobilized volunteers to plant trees along streams and to implement stream-bank-restoration projects to address non-point-source pollution.

The association even developed a watershed assessment and restoration plan, identifying 129 priority projects to improve the creek's water quality.

"But we couldn't do it all alone — we realized we needed help, we needed partners," he said. "And at the same time, Penn State was looking for a place to successfully address the complex and challenging water-quality problems that are causing the pollution in the Chesapeake.