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Oklahoma and Arkansas Quarterly Progress Report 03/31/11

Quarterly Progress Report 03/31/11

The Illinois River/Eucha-Spavinaw Watershed Initiative is a joint landscape initiative between Arkansas and Oklahoma to improve water quality from agricultural sources. Causes of the 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, application of animal manure/litter as fertilizer on pastures and hay land, and re-suspension of streambed sediments. Poultry production and other livestock farming operations are predominant within the two watersheds.

The initiative was approved in October, 2010, and outreach activities began immediately after. Conservation partners who have assisted with the outreach activities include the conservation districts in each involved county, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, the Farm Service Agency in both states, and the Illinois River Watershed Partnership.

There are populations of Hmong and Native American farmers in the area included in the project, and these historically underserved landowners were especially targeted for inclusion in the project. Outreach included information presented at Laotian/Hmong landowner meetings in two Oklahoma counties, the Northwest Arkansas Hmong Growers meeting, a Native American outreach meeting, county-level outreach meetings, other informational meetings such as those sponsored by poultry integrators and Extension, newspaper announcements, and flyers strategically placed in all counties involved. The fact sheet, “Who is the NRCS?” written in Hmong, Spanish and Chinese has been made available to all employees for use in outreach activities.

NRCS is searching for an interpreter from the Hmong community and has located several bilingual prospects. The Hmong in this area do not speak pure Hmong, but rather a blend of English and Hmong - consequently an interpreter from that community is preferable. Human Resources is contacting the community to see if they have a candidate. This position will be shared between Arkansas and Oklahoma.

There is also enough funding in the current SWAT plan to hire a technician and to pay for water monitoring activities in the project watersheds. NRCS in both states are working together to coordinate water quality monitoring for the project. Conservation partners for this effort are the University of Arkansas, the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Details for this will be completed during an April 20 meeting of all parties concerned.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission also implements a 319 program which has resulted in 139 contracts for more than $1.7 million to date (figures since the initiative begun were not available) in these watersheds. This work still continues. The OCC is also heavily involved with water quality monitoring in the watersheds and recent findings have indicated improvements in some areas.

The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission is currently exploring the potential for funding some in-stream water quality monitoring through EPA’s 319 grants as it is willing to do for some of the Mississippi River Basin Initiative projects. We have no definitive response on this issue yet. The first program application ranking has been completed. Preparation of landowner contracts is currently underway. See the table below for the sign-up results.

The first program application ranking has been completed.  Preparation of landowner contracts is currently underway.  See the table below for the sign-up results.

Table 1.  FY2011 Applications and Approved Contracts

State

Number of EQIP Applications

Amount of Applications

Number of Approved Contracts

Amount of Approved Contracts

Arkansas

181

$4,876,400

144

$3,775,497

Oklahoma

76

$2,000,000

20

$935,000

Total

257

$6,876,400

164

$4,710,497

 The conservation practices most commonly requested by farmers are indicated in the table below.

Table 2.  FY2011 Predominant Conservation Practices Requested

Conservation Practice

Practice Category

Forage and Biomass Planting

Core Avoiding

Fence

Core Avoiding

Prescribed Grazing

Core Avoiding

Watering Facility

Core Avoiding

Amendment for Treatment of Agricultural Manure

 

Core Controlling

Pipeline

Supporting Avoiding

Waste Storage Facility

Core Avoiding

Pond

Supporting Controlling

 

The initiative has sparked some interest among small dairy owners in Arkansas.  There was some interest from dairy operators with whom NRCS has had very little contact in the last 10 years.  There is renewed interest in controlling runoff from loafing areas and the milk house wash water.  They are interested in new ideas for settling solids and treating wastes.

 

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