Funds Available to Farmers to Improve Virginia Water Quality
State Conservationist Jack Bricker announced today that the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Virginia has received $675,974 for an initiative to improve water quality in selected areas in Virginia.
With the help of local partners and state water quality agencies, NRCS selected three watersheds where on-farm conservation investments have the best chance to improve water quality: War Branch and Mountain Run in Rockingham County and Fifteenmile Creek in Washington County.
Mountain Run and War Branch are two of four watersheds that make up the Smith Creek Watershed. Both have documented impairments caused by sediment, nutrients, and pathogens. While the land in these areas is varied, the majority is in pasture and hayland with unlimited livestock access to streams.
Fifteenmile Creek in Washington County is a tributary to the South Fork Holston Lake near the Town of Abingdon. Pathogens from unrestricted livestock access are the major cause of the impairment. The predominant land use is pastureland with some scattered hayland and cropland fields.
“The additional funds we received under the agency’s National Water Quality Initiative will mean more opportunities to help farmers and forestland owners to install needed conservation practices that manage nutrients, pathogens and sediments,” said Bricker. “Water quality practices benefit the farmer by lowering input costs while providing cleaner water for neighbors and the community and healthier habitat for fish and wildlife.”
Eligible producers will receive assistance for installing conservation systems that include practices such as fencing livestock out of streams, installing alternative water sources, planting riparian forest buffers, improving vegetative and forest cover, implementing prescribed grazing and, in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.
As part of this initiative, NRCS is also piloting its new Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff. The tool will help landowners determine how alternative conservation systems they are considering will impact water quality improvement. Additionally, state water quality agencies and other partners will do in-stream and watershed-level monitoring to track water quality improvements in some watersheds.
NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. Application deadlines for funding consideration during this fiscal year are May 17, June 21 and July 12.
For more information about NRCS’ programs, initiatives and services in Virginia, contact your local NRCS office or visit us online at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/.