Through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), NRCS and our partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Mississippi River Basin.
Why the Mississippi River Basin?
Known as “America’s River,” the Mississippi River is North America’s largest river, flowing over 2,300 miles through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the centerpiece of the second largest watershed in the world. The watershed not only provides drinking water, food, industry, and recreation for millions of people, it also hosts a globally significant migratory flyway and home for over 325 bird species.
NRCS has identified the Mississippi River Basin as a top priority due to water quality concerns, primarily related to the effects of nutrient loading on the health of local water bodies and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.
How Does MRBI Benefit Producers?
Through MRBI, NRCS helps producers with voluntary conservation practices that conserve America’s natural resources in high-priority watersheds while ensuring economic viability of cropland and rangeland.
Conservation practices installed by producers will serve to avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff, prevent erosion and provide essential wildlife habitat. These practices benefit the natural resources of the Mississippi Basin and enhance agricultural profitability through reduced input and enhanced soil health, which results in higher soil organic matter, increased infiltration and water-holding capacity and nutrient cycling.
How Does MRBI Benefit the Public?
More than 50 cities and 18 million people rely on the Mississippi River for their daily water supply. The Mississippi River is the main stem of a network of inland navigable waterways 12,350 miles in length.
NRCS is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and state and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the tens of millions of people who live in and rely on the Mississippi River Basin.
The Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) was created in FY10 with a primary focus of improving water quality, while also restoring wetlands, enhancing wildlife habitat, and sustaining agricultural viability in the Mississippi River Basin. Implementation of MRBI requires a flexible approach tailored to individual watersheds and should support conservation systems composed of practices that avoid, control and trap sediment and nutrients.
In phase two of MRBI, NRCS and partners worked with producers and landowners to implement and show the effectiveness of targeted, voluntary conservation systems in priority watersheds identified as major contributors of nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico. Phase two watershed projects were specifically designed to support each State’s nutrient loss reduction strategy.
Phase three of MRBI, beginning in FY19, will incorporate lessons learned from NRCS experience in implementing targeted conservation including those identified during the MRBI strategic planning session held in FY16. Priority watersheds that need additional planning and assessment prior to project development will complete a “readiness phase” in FY19 and receive technical assistance for watershed assessment, on-farm planning, and outreach prior to receiving financial assistance in FY20.
The purpose of these projects is to assist in a planning and assessment phase (readiness phase) for the identified target watersheds. This phase will include a watershed-level assessment, on-farm planning, and outreach to support development of the project proposal that will assist States with their nutrient loss reduction strategies.
Kessinger Ditch Readiness Project: The lead partner for this project is Knox County SWCD and includes the following watersheds: 051202020906, 051202020905, and 051202020904
Middle Wabash Deer Readiness Project: The lead partner for this project is Carroll County SWCD and includes the following watersheds: 051201050401, 051201050402, 051201050403, 051201050404, 051201050405, 051201050501, 051201050502, 051201050503, 0512010505, 0512010506, and 051201050506.