Wetland Mitigation Pays Dividends in Richland County
Wetland mitigation is paying dividends for conservation and crop production in Richland County, N.D.
Loretta Sorensen writes from Yankton, S.D.
Mitigation is the process of moving a wetland from cropland to another place in the watershed.
In 2016, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service helped Russ Mauch, of Barney, N.D., mitigate several wetlands on his farm. He grows corn, soybeans and sugar beets.
The size of the fields, locations of several small wetlands and the setback requirements based on the soil types were such that he couldn’t tile the fields or farm them in what he thought was an efficient way. Often in the spring the soil around the small wetlands was muddy when the rest of the field was dry enough to plant.
Mauch applied to move the wetlands from the middle of the fields to land along a creek that runs through his farm and in the corner of a field that was the site of an abandoned farmstead.
NRCS technicians and engineers helped Mauch develop a mitigation plan that complied with the rules and regulations established in the Farm Bill. The law says the new wetlands have to be as big as and provide the same values and functions as the original wetlands.
“Using his marginal land worked well,” says Derrick Klimesh, NRCS Wetland Compliance Coordinator who worked on the project.
Mauch paid the cost to mitigate the wetlands. In his case, it involved designing the wetlands, moving the soil to create the depressions and planting wetland plant species.
Mauch is pleased with how the wetlands and cropland turned out. He thinks having the wetlands near the creek and in the abandoned farm site, which included a lot of grass cover, enhances wildlife habitat. In turn, he was able to tile the cropland and better manage water levels.
Mitigation is a good option worth considering, agrees Jason Hanson, NRCS District Conservationist, Wahpeton, N.D. “It is a win-win in our county. It can solve some problems.”