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News Release

Sign Up for National Water Quality Initiative Now Underway Through July 1

Rich Torpin
(402) 437-4061

Agricultural producers located in priority watersheds have until July 1 to apply for assistance.

LINCOLN, NE, April 29, 2014 — State Conservationist Craig Derickson announced today that the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is currently accepting applications for the National Water Quality Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to improve two impaired watersheds located in eastern Nebraska. Interested participants have until July 1 to apply.

The targeted watersheds were identified with help from state agencies, partners, and the USDA State Technical Committee.  The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality is working with the local Natural Resources Districts in these watersheds through the Nonpoint Source Water Quality Grants-Section 319 Program.  Including these watersheds in the National Water Quality Initiative will strengthen the overall effort to improve water quality in impaired streams in Nebraska. The selected watersheds are:

  • Bazile Creek – located in Antelope, Pierce, and Knox counties
  • Wahoo Creek – located in Saunders County

Derickson said, “Through this effort, eligible producers in the selected watersheds will invest in voluntary conservation practices to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities.”

NRCS will provide funding and expertise to producers interested in installing conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips, terraces, no-till and other erosion control practices to improve water quality. NRCS staff will work with individual landowners to develop a conservation plan to apply practices that work best for their farming operation in each particular watershed.

One of the producers assisted last year through the National Water Quality Initiative was Saunders County farmer Austin Vermeline. He worked with Sean Elliot, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician in the Wahoo Field Officeto install terraces and basins on land that he farms near Malmo.

Vermeline said that making a better farm is important to him, and the National Water Quality Initiativehas helped him make progress toward that goal. “To be a farmer, you have to take care of the land. We can’t just let our topsoil wash away,” Vermeline said. He foresees long-lasting benefits from the terraces and other work that was done last fall. “It will help the land hold its value and also hold onto its water. It will reduce erosion, and it’ll help protect the groundwater." 

According to Tom Mountford, assistant manager with the Lower Platte North NRD, there are additional funding opportunities for landowners within the Wahoo Creek sign up area.

“This is an exciting opportunity for landowners to put conservation on the ground. The Lower Platte North NRD will be coordinating funds with other special grant funding from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Nebraska Environmental Trust to accomplish long term goals for the watershed. 

“Producers in the Wahoo Creek watershed who sign up for National Water Quality Initiative will receive an additional 25% in cost share funding through the Lower Platte North NRD. We also have the new Lands for Conservation program, which provides an incentive payment of $220 per acre for producers to get conservation structures constructed on the land during the growing season. Construction must be done between June 1 and September 15, and the field must be available for construction by August 1,” Mountford said.

The Bazile Creek watershed eligibility area lies within four Natural Resources Districts – the Upper Elkhorn, Lower Elkhorn, Lewis and Clark, and Lower Niobrara NRDs. All of the NRDs are dedicated to providing assistance to improve water quality and quantity, according to Dennis Schueth, general manager of the Upper Elkhorn NRD.

“The four NRDs are excited for the landowners within the Bazile Creek watershed to have access for additional funding for best management practices. We are hopeful that landowners will take this opportunity to contact their local NRCS offices and ask questions and apply for this new funding mechanism for this watershed.

“The National Water Quality Initiative will fit perfectly with funding that the four NRDs have secured locally through grants from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Water Quality Grants-Section 319 and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.  The districts are hoping to educate the landowners within the Bazile Creek watershed and provide additional funding to reduce the level of nitrate-nitrogen levels in this area that are at or over the Federal Health Standard of 10 ppm,” Schueth said.

Interested landowners and operators should check with the local NRCS office to see if their farm or ranch is located in one of the targeted watersheds. Additional information about the National Water Quality Initiative, and detailed maps of the sign up areas, are available at the Nebraska NRCS National Water Quality Initiative website.