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Dodge County Success Stories

Dodge County Success Stories

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Dedicated Farmer Puts Conservation First

By Amelia Hines, Public Affairs Specialist Assistant, Athens

Milton Ussery isn’t a baker but he knows what ingredients it takes to make everything come together. When it comes to his conservation plans, The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been essential in making his plans a reality. “It’s like I bake the cake and they put the icing on it.” That cake has taken a few years but NRCS financial and technical assistance have helped get his plans on the ground.

Ussery’s efforts to restore and preserve important natural resources on his 570 acre property in Dodge County have been accomplished through three Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) contracts, two Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts, and a Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contract

Under WHIP, Ussery has restored longleaf pine trees on several acres as part of the Longleaf Pine Initiative. Longleaf pine is native to Georgia and is known to perpetuate wildlife habitat, prevent soil erosion and improve air quality.

Ussery has also been able to create forest openings where space is made to plant wildlife food plots or for the natural growth of native vegetation. The food plots include saw tooth turkey oats and chufa for wild turkey. Forest stand improvements, which involve selective thinning on plantation pines, were also implemented on the Dodge County property. “If I hadn’t had financial assistance, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this,” Ussery said.

An EQIP contract for row crops has addressed conservation concerns on several acres of cropland. Ussery grows cotton on 60 acres. Conservation tillage, cover crops, nutrient and pest management, and terraces have all been used to help address soil erosion, soil and water quality, and chemically treat invasive plants. “It has just enhanced everything,” Ussery said.

 Another EQIP contract for forestry has enabled Ussery to construct a stream crossing on one part of the farm where seasonal flooding made it difficult to pass some crossways. The stream crossing helps prevent vehicles from getting bogged down when it’s wet. Ussery said, “It’s a good practice to help a landowner manage their property better.”

District Conservationist Chuck McCranie has worked with Ussery on putting several of the abovementioned practices on the ground. He said that Ussery “is real active in conservation programs. Whatever he gets approved to do, he gets it completed and he does it in a good way.”

Because of those efforts, Ussery has also been awarded a Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contract that allows him to continue improving his land and natural resources. But, his work doesn’t stop with conservation on his property. Ussery, who lives in Fitzgerald, also serves as District Supervisor for Ben Hill County’s Soil and Water Conservation District.

He does all this because he feels land and natural resources are important. Ussery said, “You have to leave it better than you found it.”Dodge County is a designated StrikeForce county in Georgia. The USDA StrikeForce Initiative is designed to help relieve persistent poverty in historically high-poverty counties.


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NRCS Solves Drainage Problem   

Steve and Sandra Dykes had major drainage problems around their home in Eastman. Steve had attempted to have the drainage problem corrected various times but his efforts failed. The problem had gotten so bad that Sandra was at the point where she was ready to move out then Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was contacted.

Steve and Sandra had become desperate to correct their drainage problem and had reached a point where they really did not know what to do or who to turn to for advice. The couple purchased their home in 1994 and immediately began having major drainage problems due to heavy rains. Everyone in Georgia refers to 1994 as the year of the great flood which was due to a major hurricane.

Steve and Sandra’s home was situated in a low lying area that was surrounded by higher ground elevations in all directions. During rainy seasons of each year, their home would almost be completely surrounded by standing water and they would not even have good vehicle access to their home. Steve would have to get a five horsepower pump to remove water out of the yard so that they could have access to the house.

They would also have standing water beneath the home which caused severe mold damage to the home. The family developed health problems from the mold and had to receive medical treatment for allergies. The water caused a termite infestation and there was termite damage to the structure of the house. The septic tank system would also fail to work properly during rainy seasons causing sewage to back up into the house. They could not wash clothes, flush the toilets, bath or wash dishes. The backed up sewage from the septic tank system also caused areas of the house to have floor damage.

On two different occasions, Steve paid to have underground drainage systems installed to correct the problem. The systems failed and did not correct the problem. The Dykes family battled with this drainage problem over a five-year period of time. According to Steve and Sandra, they spent at least $15,000 attempting to solve the problem. They also had to replace the floor in areas of the house, remove the mold, and repair the damage caused by termites.

After unsuccessfully attempting to correct their problem for five years, Sandra’s father Merle Peacock, a local farmer who had received assistance from NRCS, suggested that she contact Chuck McCranie with NRCS for assistance Steve and Sandra contacted NRCS and asked a local contractor Jim Jamieson to install a drainage system and work with NRCS on the project. Chuck McCranie, District Conservationist, and Mr. Jamieson worked closely together on the project. NRCS surveyed and designed the project with recommendations from the contractor.

NRCS helped determine where the outlet needed to be located in order for the system to function properly. The outlet had to be located on adjoining property owned by Stuckey Timberland. Mr. Andy Stone, president of Stuckey Timberland was generous and cooperative with the Dykes family allowing the outlet to be located on Stuckey Timberland property.

The system was installed and is presently draining the area around the home as designed. Steve and Sandra are extremely satisfied with the outcome and are grateful for the valuable assistance NRCS provided.

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NRCS Helps Eastman Dodge Recreation Department Save $30,000 by Providing Free Conservation Technical Assistance   

The Eastman Dodge Recreation Department was making plans to construct a new soccer field and gymnasium for local citizens to enjoy. A private engineering firm advised them that they would be required to obtain a storm water Permit. The firm informed the Recreation Board that they would develop the plan and assist with obtaining a permit for a consulting fee of $30,000.00.

That’s when the board, who had previous experience with NRCS, turned to the agency for assistance. NRCS assisted the Recreation Board by contacting Environmental Protection Department to determine that they were exempt from this permit. NRCS then went on to provide technical assistance with erosion and sediment control practices for the project.

The agency also provided engineering assistance and prevented the county from spending over $30,000.00 of unnecessary cost. NRCS provided technical advice on the following erosion and sediment control practices: Sediment Barriers; Diversions; Permanent Vegetation; Sediment Basin. Engineering and surveying assistance was also provided to calculate the amount of earth work and leveling to be done. Steve Knight, Dodge Recreation Board Member, said, “NRCS saved the tax payers of Dodge County over $30,000.00 of unnecessary cost for a recreation project that is a valuable asset and benefit to the community.

The Recreation Board was already making plans to obtain the funds for this consulting fee when we contacted NRCS and found out that we were about to spend money on consulting fees for obtaining a permit that was not required.” The site and areas adjacent to it continue to benefit from the conservation practices that were installed.

Benefits to the area include reducing runoff from the recreation complex during construction projects, while at the same time reducing erosion and sediment deposition.

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