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News Release

5 Oregon communities selected for USDA assistance to improve drinking water quality

NEWS_RELEASE_HEADER-UPDATEDNews Release: 2018-11-007

Contact:

Tracy Robillard, Public Affairs Officer, 503-414-3220, tracy.robillard@or.usda.gov

Mary Beth Smith, Oregon NWQI Coordinator, 503-414-3283, Mary.Beth.Smith@or.usda.gov

5 Oregon communities selected for USDA assistance to improve drinking water quality

Plans underway to address agricultural impacts to source water

 

PORTLAND, Ore. - (Nov. 28, 2018) - Five communities in Oregon have recently been selected for federal assistance to improve water quality on surface and groundwater sources of drinking water.

The assistance comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) via its National Water Quality Initiative, with local sponsorship from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Oregon Health Authority, and with additional funding support from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB).

These five Source Water Protection Areas (SWPAs) will undergo a “readiness phase” throughout 2019, during which project partners will develop a detailed watershed assessment and an outreach strategy to address agricultural-related impacts to source water quality.

Following the readiness phase, these SWPAs would then be eligible to receive federal Farm Bill funding to implement the measures identified in their plans specific to agricultural impacts.

The five communities selected for the National Water Quality Initiative readiness phase are:

  • Cities of Canby and Molalla SWPA – Molalla River
  • City of Myrtle Point SWPA – North Fork Coquille River
  • City of Baker City SWPA – Multiple watersheds in the Powder Basin
  • City of Eugene / Eugene Water & Electric Board, McKenzie River SWPA
  • Cites of Winston and Dillard, South Umpqua River, Lookingglass Creek Sub-Watershed SWPA

Nationwide, 16 proposals were selected for the readiness phase—with five of those proposals occurring in Oregon.

“Our goal with the readiness phase is to pull together existing plans, assessments and outreach efforts to position these communities so that they may receive federal implementation dollars next year to accomplish conservation work on-the-ground,” said NRCS Oregon State Conservationist Ron Alvarado. “Our strong partnerships with OWEB, ODA and DEQ help us better connect federal Farm Bill programs with state drinking water agencies and utilities that can benefit from investments in our communities.”

The communities were selected based on a set of screening criteria and resources jointly developed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, OWEB, NRCS and DEQ. Support for these projects was high from the local watershed representatives including the county soil and water conservation districts, watershed councils, drinking water utilities and other local partners.

“OWEB is pleased to participate in projects that improve drinking water in communities across Oregon, and these projects demonstrate the effectiveness of collaboration in the state,” said OWEB Executive Director Meta Loftsgaarden.

NRCS is working with project sponsors in these communities to coordinate development of drinking water source protection plans and outreach strategies; and to begin developing conservation plans with interested farmers and ranchers in these areas. Oregon DEQ, in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority, has already completed source water assessments for these areas, which made them eligible candidates for the readiness phase.

Examples of conservation practices that could be implemented on farmlands include planting trees along streams and waterways to serve as natural buffers, building fences to keep cattle away from drinking water sources, installing off-channel livestock watering facilities, managing fertilizer applications, forest health practices and more.

Through the National Water Quality Initiative, NRCS invests in targeted assistance to help agricultural producers plan and apply practices that improve water quality in high-priority waterbodies across the country. NWQI provides an opportunity for partners to work with NRCS on a shared vision for water quality priorities.

Since 2012, NRCS has partnered with state water quality agencies and EPA to identify and address nutrient, sediment and/or pathogen impaired waterbodies through voluntary agricultural conservation.

 

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The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides financial and technical assistance to voluntary farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to implement conservation practices on private lands. By working collectively with partners and stakeholders, NRCS helps maintain healthy and productive working landscapes, benefitting both environmental and agricultural needs.

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