Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge announced a Forum on Nonpoint Source Pollution to guide the state's nutrient reduction efforts and meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup obligations.

Speaking at the Executive Council meeting, Ridge said a 14-member blue-ribbon panel with membership from agriculture, environmental, government and other groups will guide the Forum, which is expected to begin meeting in December.

The Forum, to be held with support from The Conservation Fund and the Heinz Endowment, will make recommendations on how Pennsylvania can achieve further pollution reductions from nonpoint sources of nutrients.

Pennsylvania is the first state to hold a nonpoint source pollution forum.

It will be based on the National Forum on Nonpoint Source Pollution held by The Conservation Fund in 1994, which called for states to explore innovative, non-regulatory solutions to nonpoint source pollution.

The Susquehanna River contributes one-half of the fresh water to the Bay, along with a significant amount of the nutrients that are choking aquatic life in the estuary.

Ridge said the Common-wealth is making progress working in partnership with the agricultural community to encourage controls on pollution that comes from the general drainage of the land. In cooperation with conservation districts, 400,000 acres of farmland have already been brought under voluntary nutrient management plans.

He also noted that Pennsyl-vania's Nutrient Management regulations, designed to minimize surface and ground water nutrient pollution from agricultural operations, went into effect in October.

"Pennsylvania is the only state sending water to the Bay to require mandatory plans for the management of excess nutrients from animal feeding operations," he said. "We think this program can serve as a good model for other states in the Bay area as they seek to solve problems with excess nutrients from farms