2011-2012 IRWI Information
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has received funding for a water quality initiative in the Illinois River Sub-Basin and the Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed in northwestern Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma.
The purpose of the project is to improve water quality of the Illinois River Sub-Basin and Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed (which include Lake Tenkiller, Lake Eucha and Lake Spavinaw in Oklahoma) while maintaining the food and fiber production in the area.
Water quality enhancement is crucial to ensuring an adequate supply of drinkable water for the urban center of Tulsa, Okla., as well as the many smaller municipalities and individuals who rely on these water resources for their water supply.
Improving water quality will also benefit recreational industries since the Illinois River is a designated scenic river.
The project is located in portions of Benton and Washington counties in Arkansas and parts of Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, Mayes and Sequoyah counties in Oklahoma.
Funding will be used to assist landowners in the 1.32 million acre area over an eight-year period. The area includes 576,517 acres in Arkansas and 739,156 acres in Oklahoma.
Water Quality Issues
Water quality problems in this area have been identified by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediments and bacteria. Potential non-point sources of these degrading agents are runoff from land surfaces after application of animal manure/litter as fertilizer on pastures, soil erosion, re-suspension of streambed sediments, and nutrients from poultry production as well as other livestock farming operations within the area.
There are a high number of poultry and livestock farms in the impacted watersheds which are contributing to the problem. Animal unit densities for all livestock in the affected counties average 0.91 units per acre for Arkansas and 0.24 per acre for Oklahoma. Arkansas ranks first in the nation (2007 Census of Agriculture) in poultry with 202 million birds produced annually.
Approximately 15 percent of these are grown in the two watersheds. Based on 2010 information from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC), Arkansas has 398 poultry operations in the project area. Of these, 113 operations comprised of 7,273,600 birds in 406 houses are in the Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed and 285 poultry farms comprised of 22,283,000 birds in 1,244 houses are in the Illinois River Sub-Basin. ANRC annual nutrient management plans are required for the farms in the Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed since it is designated as a nutrient surplus area. Five-year nutrient management plans are required in the Illinois River Sub-Basin Watershed.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry has recorded 167 poultry operations in the two watersheds. There are 83 farms with 6,490,250 birds in 310 houses in the Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed along with 84 operations with 7,795,930 birds in 382 houses in the Illinois River Sub-Basin.
NRCS and its conservation partners plan to further treat and reduce water quality resource concerns through conservation practices which will avoid, control, and trap the nutrients and sediments. The combination of these kinds of practices both upland from and adjacent to the water bodies will be highly beneficial to the water resources in the area.
Combining proper manure management, utilization, and transfer practices with nutrient management and soil erosion treatment in a suite of practices is required to reduce nutrient and sedimentation runoff to acceptable rates. The conservation practices available through NRCS are designed to help control the water quality problems in the initiative area. Based on Conservation Effects Assessment Project simulation models for other parts of the country, it is estimated this initiative could result in a 17 to 29 percent reduction in sedimentation and nutrient load to water bodies.
Land treatment and structural practices will be installed on a voluntary basis in the project area using Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Cost-share payments for all practices involved in the initiative will be eligible for 75/25 percent match of Federal to participant funding. Historically underserved participants will be eligible for 90 percent cost-share.
The outcomes anticipated from the initiative include reduced nutrients, bacteria, and sediments in the waters of the area due to a systems approach to address water quality resource concerns in the watersheds.
It is anticipated that nutrient inputs from on-farm sources can be reduced to achieve a balance of on-farm nutrient production, application, and export while maintaining the nutrients required for on-farm production of forages and crops.
All EQIP eligible producers in the watershed will be contacted during the first two years of the initiative to inform and educate them about the potential environmental and economic benefits of participation.
Local conservation partners are the conservation districts in each county in the project area, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the USDA Farm Service Agency and various other federal and state agencies.
For More Information
For more information on the Illinois River Sub-Basin and Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed Initiative Project, please contact your local USDA Service Center listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture or your local conservation district.
Assistant Conservationist for Programs
State Resource Conservationist