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News Release

USDA, NRCS Announces Priority Watersheds in New Hampshire for Fiscal Year 2021

Jeremy J. Fowler, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, N.H.
(603) 868-9931

The Ammonoosuc River winds through Lisbon, N.H. September 29, 2020, past a future NRCS-funded streambank stabilization project for the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust.

The Ammonoosuc River winds through Lisbon, N.H. September 29, 2020, past a future NRCS-funded streambank stabilization project for the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust.  This tributary to the Connecticut River, has been identified as planning watersheds for the agency for 2021 to ensure water quality conservation in the Granite State.  (Natural Resources Conservation Service photo by Jeremy J. Fowler, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, N.H)

DOVER, N.H., October 14, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) has announced the three priority watersheds to complete watershed level plans this fiscal year under the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), which is a partnership with State water quality agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify and address impaired water bodies through voluntary conservation.

Over the next year, NRCS is working to develop detailed watershed plans in three watersheds in New Hampshire. Two of these watersheds are adjacent in Grafton County and are along the mainstem of the Connecticut River: Clark Brook, and Oliverian Brook. This area contains many large dairy farms and is part of a larger planning effort for the Long Island Sound. The third watershed, Kersarge Brook in Carroll County, is a well-known watershed which hosts a popular section of the Saco River along the scenic West Side Road, with popular attractions such as: Dianna’s Baths, Mount Cranmore and the North Conway village. All three of these watersheds abut the White Mountain National Forest.  

Many conservation partners are teaming up to bring needed capacity and inform the watershed planning process in order to help better understand potential threats and water quality concerns amongst a diverse list of land uses including: recreation, wildlife habitat, land protection, local farming and source water protection. Ultimately, a watershed plan for the above-listed watersheds informs the implementation phase and includes a budget request for NRCS conservation dollars to address water quality problems. Additionally, these plans will help justify grant submissions to other funding sources.

“We see a positive impact – both here in New Hampshire and across the country – when we partner with producers to deliver conservation practices to critical watersheds,” said Becky Ross, NRCS State Conservationist in New Hampshire. “These focused partnerships allow us to maximize the delivery of our conservation efforts and achieve greater improvements to water quality, which benefits the participating producers, the public, and our nation’s natural resources.”

This announcement comes after two years of collaboration with State, Federal and local partners to focus on improving degraded water quality in rural watersheds in New Hampshire. These areas are defined by EPA and the State as 303d impairments and include causes such as sedimentation and excess nutrients. Many of these impairments are referred to as “non-point source”, which indicate that many locations contribute to a bigger problem. This is where the watershed planning process and the development of a plan is important because it informs conservationists and helps identify priorities.

While NRCS works primarily on private farms and forests, and plans to provide targeted funding to help landowners improve water quality and protect lands in these watersheds, the watershed planning process will detail improvements to public infrastructure, inform land protection prioritizations, restore headwater streams, and secure source water protection areas.

 “There has been tremendous partnership in New Hampshire to help us deliver NWQI, with NH Department of Environmental Services and Environmental Protection Agency providing us key data on watersheds, and also with local partners working to apply for grants and leveraging their local staff to help NRCS continue this critical watershed planning,” said Don Keirstead, State Resource Conservationist for the NRCS in New Hampshire. “It is this local collaboration effort with our partners that really allows us to maximize our success on these projects as we move forward.”

The result of this alliance further cements the USDA and NRCS mission in the granite state to ensure sustainable agriculture while conserving the vital natural resources within the state.

The USDA continues its investment in targeting funds in priority watersheds. In fiscal year 2019, NRCS invested $25.3 million in financial assistance nationwide in relation to NWQI on over 133,000 acres.

For more information on all NWQI planning and implementation watersheds, you can see the national press release.

For more information on the source water protection collaboration with NRCS and our partners, visit the NRCS Source Water page.

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