The Middle Strawberry 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 Whaley Creek-Strawberry River, Hamilton Branch-South Big Creek and Fool Creek-South Big Creek watersheds in a portion of Sharp County. The project area covers 54,322 acres.
The Strawberry River, including the three watersheds in the project, was listed as impaired by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on its 2008 303(d) list for siltation/turbidity and pathogens. The cause of this impairment is attributed to agricultural activities in the watershed.
Agricultural producers in the three watersheds are involved in livestock and poultry production and forestry activities. Cattle herds typically range from 10 to 100 head per farm with most cattle having unlimited access to streams in the watershed. Poultry production has risen sharply in the area with 27 poultry houses currently operating in these watersheds and 12 new houses scheduled to begin production in the next year.
This project builds upon the implementation of a previous Arkansas Natural Resources Commission 319 project to install riparian forest buffers in the Strawberry River watershed. Formulation of a watershed plan for the river is on-going.
Resource Concerns Addressed by the Project
Water Quality Degradation – Excessive sediment in surface water (primary)
Water Quality Degradation – Excess pathogens and chemicals from manure, bio-solids or compost applications (secondary)
Soil Erosion – Sheet, rill and wind erosion (secondary)
Inadequate Habitat for Fish and Wildlife – Habitat degradation (secondary)
Achieve total load reductions of 10,000 tons of sediment by 2018 to help achieve goals of Total Maximum Daily Load. Pasture condition scores will improve from “fair to worse” to “good to excellent” condition.
Fifty percent of high-priority acres are treated, part of a conservation plan, or contracted with systems of practices intended to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off by 2018.
Increase public awareness of water quality and soil health issues by conducting three annual landowner education workshops to reach at least 150 agricultural producers. Identify one farm within the project area to be recognized as an MRBI Strawberry River demonstration farm to showcase conservation practices.
Conservation Practice Funding
Approximately $600,000 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
327 – Conservation Cover
342 – Critical Area Planting
391 – Riparian Herbaceous Buffer
512 – Forage and Biomass Planting
528 – Prescribed Grazing
580 – Stream Bank and Shoreline Protection
612 – Tree/Shrub Establishment
313 – Waste Storage Facility
314 – Brush Management
315 – Herbaceous Weed Control
316 – Animal Mortality Facility
367 – Roofs and Covers
378 – Pond
382 – Fencing
381 – Silvopasture Establishment
484 – Mulching
490 – Tree/Shrub Site Preparation
516 – Livestock Pipeline
533 – Pumping Plant
558 – Roof Runoff Structure
561 – Heavy Use Area Protection
574 – Spring Development
578 – Stream Crossing
591 – Amendments for Treatment of Animal Waste
614 – Water Facility
642 – Water Well
Sharp County Conservation District
Arkansas Forestry Commission
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service
Arkansas Natural Resources Commission
Sharp County Road Department
Cave City Middle School
Cave City High School
Earth Team Volunteers
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Tri-County Cattlemen’s Association
Sharp County Farm Bureau
How to Apply for MRBI
NRCS and associated conservation partners will deliver this program collaboratively. Applications may be obtained and filed with NRCS at:
Ash Flat Field Service CenterP.O. Box 6Court Rd., Beller Bldg., Suite 21-CAsh Flat, AR 72513(870) 994-7335, ext. 3
If you need more information about MRBI, please contact the above office.