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News Release

USDA Announces Projects to Protect Natural Resources In the Mississippi River Basin

USDA Announces Six Arkansas Projects Selected for Funding to Protect Natural Resources In the Mississippi River Basin

Little Rock, AR - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the selection of six projects in Arkansas that will help landowners and producers within the Mississippi River Basin voluntarily implement conservation and management practices that prevent, control and trap nutrient runoff from agricultural land.

"USDA is working aggressively to improve the health of the Mississippi River Basin," said Vilsack.  "The funding will help producers implement a system of conservation practices that will control soil erosion, improve soil quality, and provide wildlife habitat."

Under the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide technical assistance and a total of $30 million of financial assistance during federal fiscal year 2010 for 76 projects in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

“The projects selected in Arkansas will be implemented working with our conservation partners to accelerate conservation treatment to improve water quality, maintain productivity and enhance wildlife habitat,” said NRCS State Conservationist Michael Sullivan.  “Additional funding for the six Arkansas projects could exceed $30 million over the 5-year project’s life.”

Overall, more than $22 million in Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) funds will be administered through the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.

Five CCPI projects were chosen in Arkansas. The projects and funding for FY10 are:

  • L’Anguille River Watershed Coalition, $540,000 – The L’Anguille River has been designated as an impaired watershed by the Environmental Protection Agency due to excessive siltation and turbidity from agricultural sources.  The project will use practices ranging from conservation cover and nutrient management to filter strips and riparian forest buffers to mitigate the amount of nutrients currently reaching the water course through soil erosion.  The plan should benefit at least 110 farmers in the watershed with funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP);
     
  • Point Remove Wetlands Reclamation and Irrigation District, $1,025,000 - The project area lies within portions of Conway, Pope and Yell counties.  The project partners will assist agricultural producers in 15 sub-watersheds of the Lake Conway-Point Remove basin to adopt a systems approach with a variety of core and supporting conservation practices to address natural resource concern of water quality pertaining to nutrient runoff and water management.  They will focus on avoiding excess application of nutrients and water on fields; controlling the amount of nutrient and water runoff from fields into the watershed; and trapping nutrients before they leave the field.  The project will utilize EQIP funding to assist with practice installation.  The partners estimate producer participation at 75 percent;
     
  • St. Francis County and Lee County Conservation Districts, Outlet Larkin Creek, $224,000 - The project in the L’Anguille River basin in St. Francis and Lee counties is designed to reduce sediment and nutrients entering the impaired waters from agricultural lands.  The project will assist agricultural producers in the area in managing runoff from agricultural fields by helping them to install core conservation practices that will ensure proper application of nutrients and irrigation water, reduce the amount of excessive runoff from fields, and use filter strips to trap sediment and nutrients before they leave the field.  The partners plan to contact 100 percent of agricultural producers in the project area to ensure good participation in the project;
     
  • Northeast Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Little River Ditches (funding begins in Fiscal Year 2011) - The goal of the five-year project is to reduce the nutrient loss from agricultural land (primarily cotton) through improved nutrient use efficiency and reduced runoff from agricultural fields.  The focus of the conservation efforts will be utilization of variable rate fertilizer application rate technology and improved irrigation water management.  The partners will directly contact the 900 area farmers and hope to achieve a 75 percent participation rate for conservation practices installed with funding from EQIP; and
     
  • Northeast Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Lower St. Francis (funding begins in Fiscal Year 2011) – The goal of the project is to reduce the nutrient loss from agricultural land (primarily rice and soybeans) through improved nutrient use efficiency and reduced runoff from agricultural fields.  The focus of the conservation efforts will be utilization of variable rate fertilizer application rate technology and improved irrigation water management.  The partners will directly contact the 175 area farmers and hope to achieve a 75 percent participation rate for conservation practices installed with funding from EQIP.

Nearly $8 million also will be provided in Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program funds. Partner organizations will contribute additional financial resources. A project by The Nature Conservancy was selected to receive $3,150,000 the first year within Arkansas.

  • Wetlands Restoration in the Cache River Watershed – Project partners will work in three sub-watersheds of the Cache River in Clay, Greene, Lawrence, Craighead, Jackson, Poinsett, Woodruff, Cross, Prairie, and Monroe counties.  The goal of the project is to reduce nutrient and sediment loads entering the Mississippi River by managing non-point pollution in the Cache River.  The partners will focus on reforestation of riparian areas associated with croplands. 

These multi-year watershed projects were selected through a competitive process.  A listing of the projects by state, and additional information about the MRBI, are available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi_overview.html.

The MRBI will help NRCS and its partners expand their capacity to improve water quality throughout the basin.  CCPI will use a conservation systems approach to manage nitrogen and phosphorous, which will minimize runoff and reduce downstream nutrient loading.  WREP will encourage strategic placement of wetland restoration projects.

NRCS is celebrating 75 years of helping people help the land in 2010.  Since 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.   For additional information, go to www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov.

Approved Projects and Funding