News from across the Commonwealth
Navy names ship after Pennsylvania capital
The U.S. Navy’s next San Antonio-class warship will be named the USS Harrisburg in honor of Pennsylvania’s capital city, according to an announcement made by Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer on Oct. 10 at the state Capitol Rotunda.
“The people of central Pennsylvania have always played a critical role in forging the strength of our Navy and fighting to defend our nation,” Spencer said. “The future USS Harrisburg will carry on this legacy to every part of the world.”
Classified as a Landing/Platform Dock Flight II, the $800 million ship will be built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. At 684 feet long with a beam length of 105 feet, it is expected to be ready to be commissioned to join the Navy’s fleet in about two and one-half years. It will be able to carry a crew up to 700 sailors and Marines.
CAPITAL HONOR: The U.S. Navy is honoring the people of central Pennsylvania with the naming of its next San Antonio-class warship, the USS Harrisburg.
Its primary purpose will be to carry Marines into combat situations to be deployed off the flight deck or in amphibious assault ships, but it also will have hospital facilities available to assist in humanitarian relief efforts as needed.
The new ship is the second Navy vessel named after Harrisburg — the first was an 1888 vessel acquired by the U.S. Navy and used to bring troops home from Europe at the end of World War I. That ship was decommissioned in 1919.
Pennsylvania roads are fifth worst in nation
A report based on a study of Federal Highway Administration data by QuoteWizard shows Pennsylvania ranks fifth worst in the nation in terms of road infrastructure. The criteria for determining the rankings included: percentage of roads in poor condition, annual cost per motorist due to roads in need of repair and percentage of structurally deficient bridges.
The study ranked only Rhode Island, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Mississippi as having worse roads than Pennsylvania. Tennessee, Georgia and Florida were listed as the best in the nation in terms of roadways.
Based on 2017 reports, the study said 30 percent of Pennsylvania’s roads are in poor condition, the cost per motorist per year of having poor roads is $610 and 18% of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient. It also noted that 22% of the state’s allocated highway budget is spent on repairs.
Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) dispute the findings, saying the report doesn’t present the entire picture. They say less than 4% of Pennsylvania’s interstate highways, which carry 26% of the state’s traffic volume, are in poor condition while 13% of the national highways in the state are in poor condition. The issue, according to PennDOT officials, is that 33% of lower-traffic, lower-volume roads are in poor condition.
“Half of PennDOT-maintained roads fall into (the lower-traffic, lower-volume) category, so the weight of that network has a big impact when looking at a statewide percentage,” PennDOT officials said. “For context, PennDOT is directly responsible for nearly 40,000 miles of roadway – in many other states, lower-volume roadways aren’t on the state-owned network.”
Young, dwarf apple trees facing sudden decline
Penn State University has joined forces with a number of other universities and other organizations that work with fruit growers to look into the mysterious decline of young, dwarf apple trees in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. Pennsylvania’s apple industry was valued at $107 million last year, ranking it fourth in the nation.
Labeled Rapid Apple Decline (RAD) or Sudden Apple Decline (SAD) based on how fast the apple trees die from the first symptoms to total collapse of the tree, Penn State officials say the common denominator in all situations seems to revolve around the graft union. They are investigating a number of potential causes, including harsh winters, droughts, fire blight, infections, insects and nematodes, but to date have not discovered the underlying cause.
Tree with full-sized fruit collapsed. Note necrotic region around graft union and further up trunk. (Photo courtesy of Kari A. Peter)
Without knowing the cause, it’s very difficult to determine how to prevent the decline, Penn State officials said, but they believe the best action is to try to alleviate stress on the trees.
The diagnostic characteristics, according to Penn State officials, include:
- A block can have a mix of dead, declining and healthy trees dispersed fairly evenly throughout a block.
- Young (2 - 8 years), dwarf trees are most susceptible, affecting multiple varieties and rootstocks.
- Severe shedding of bark around graft union and cankers are present.
- Necrosis begins at the graft union and proceeds up the trunk of the tree.
- Affected wood is usually solid and not spongy.
- The rootstock is healthy, as indicated by many rootstock suckers present, as well as a healthy root system.
- The leaves on the trees begin to look pale yellow, then reddish, and within two weeks, the tree can be dead.
- Trees can collapse with a full load of large fruit.
- Total collapse of the trees has been observed from late July through September.
DCNR plans for the next 25 years
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Dunn has announced the release of a preliminary report based on an extensive two-year survey that sought public input on the future of Pennsylvania’s state parks. More than 10,000 people responded, and the resulting “Penn’s Parks for All Preliminary Report” provides proposed recommendations to guide the management of the state parks for the next 25 years.
The report addresses the improvement of outdoor recreation opportunities, expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities, protection of resources from recreation impacts, offering more active adventure activities, expansion of overnight accommodations, protection of parks’ natural and cultural resources, financial support, and improved services and facilities.
Public comments on these survey responses and resultant recommendations will be accepted online and in writing until Dec. 31, 2019. For online participation, visit the DCNR website at dcnr.pa.gov. Address written comments to: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of State Parks’ Planning Section, P.O. Box 8551, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8551.
Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks total almost 300,000 acres. Together with DCNR’s state forest system, they are one of the largest expanses of public lands in the eastern United States.
Center studies out-migration of rural youth
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania recently studied information about out-migration of rural youth from Pennsylvania, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. It found that among the more than 590,000 young adults ages 18 to 34 who lived in rural Pennsylvania in 2016, 36,242 moved out of rural Pennsylvania in 2017. Sixty-three percent of these adults moved to another state and 37% moved to urban Pennsylvania.
To learn more about the similarities and differences between rural youth who stay in rural Pennsylvania and those who move out, the center examined census data and found young adults who leave rural Pennsylvania have higher levels of educational attainment and higher levels of employment. Those who stay in rural Pennsylvania are more likely to be married, have higher incomes and have higher rates of homeownership.
Pennsylvania Christmas tree to decorate the White House
An 18 ½-foot tall Douglas fir grown in Northumberland County by Larry and Joanne Snyder, owners of Mahantongo Valley Farms, has been selected to be displayed in the Blue Room at the White House this holiday season.
The Snyders were selected because they won grand champion tree at the National Christmas Tree Association’s 2019 competition. The tree will be transported to Washington, D.C., around Thanksgiving.
Vote for national anthem singers at 2020 Farm Show
Pennsylvanians are invited to vote for their favorite singer from finalists in the “Oh Say, Can You Sing?” contest. One talented singer or group will be selected to sing the national anthem live each day at the 2020 Farm Show in Harrisburg.
In October, State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding invited individual singers and groups statewide to enter the star-spangled sing-off for a chance to inspire Farm Show visitors with their voices during the annual event. The 2020 theme is “Imagine the Opportunities.”
Finalists from the contest were selected by a panel of judges. Those finalists are posted on the Farm Show Facebook page for fan voting by Facebook likes from Nov. 4-11. Winners in individual and group categories will be selected and announced on Facebook. A winner will sing live at 8 a.m. each day of the Farm Show, scheduled for Jan. 4-11.