The Willow, Podo-Cache River Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) Project is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers for addressing water quality concerns in the Willow Ditch and Podo Creek-Cache River watersheds in portions of Craighead, Jackson and Lawrence counties. The project area covers 64,114 acres.
Arkansas State University has been monitoring water quality parameters in various reaches of the Cache River since 2011. Their results show that the upper reaches exhibit more concentrated sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the channelized reaches of the river.
Five threatened and endangered aquatic species have been found in the local watersheds: Curtis Pearlymussel, Fat Pocketbook, Pink Mucket, Rabbitsfoot and Scaleshell mussels. These are imperiled by the sedimentation rates in the river.
There are both current water quality resource concerns in this area as well as future concerns due to the establishment of a new poultry production area just outside the project area which will add a minimum of 600 poultry houses. The new poultry industry area will be an increasing source of poultry litter as fertilizer in this agricultural area, and there is concern that the water quality will be further adversely affected.
Resource Concerns Addressed by the Project
Water Quality Degradation - Excessive nutrients in surface and ground waters (primary)
Water Quality Degradation – Excessive sediment in surface water (primary)
Water Quantity – Inefficient Use of Irrigation (secondary)
Inadequate Habitat for Fish and Wildlife - Habitat degradation (secondary)
Sixty percent of high priority acres will be treated through implementing conservation plans and contracts that include water quality conservation practices by 2018.
Achieve a documented reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous loads through edge-of-field water quality monitoring within the watershed by 2020.
Achieve a total load reduction of 15,000 tons of sediment due to practices planned during the life of the project.
Conservation Practice Funding
Approximately $2 million in funding will be available to eligible landowners through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) over the three years of the project. NRCS will provide financial assistance for a systems approach using approved conservation practices for the purpose of addressing resource concerns. Land and producer eligibility, adjusted gross income, and all other program criteria for participation must be met to participate in this initiative. Agricultural lands are eligible for enrollment in the initiative.
Approved Conservation Practices
449 – Irrigation Water Management
590 – Nutrient Management
410 – Grade Stabilization Structure
430 – Irrigation Pipeline
443 – Irrigation System, Surface and Subsurface
464 – Irrigation Land Leveling
533 – Pumping Plant
587 – Structure for Water Control
607 – Surface Drain, Field Ditch
608 – Surface Drain, Main or Lateral
Jackson County Conservation District
Lawrence County Conservation District
Craighead County Conservation District
Cache River Drainage District
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service
Arkansas State University
USDA Agricultural Research Service, National Sedimentation Laboratory
How to Apply for MRBI
NRCS and associated conservation partners will deliver this program collaboratively. Applications may be obtained and filed with NRCS at:
Jonesboro Field Service Center
3407 S. Caraway Rd. Suite 1
Jonesboro, AR 72404
(870) 972-4671, ext. 3
Newport Field Service Center
Newport, AR 72112
(870) 523-8986, ext. 3
Walnut Ridge Field Service Center
1100 W. Main
Walnut Ridge, AR 72476
(870) 886-7791, ext. 3
If you need more information about MRBI, please contact one of the above offices or visit the NRCS Arkansas Web site at: www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov