The first projects of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program have been selected. These 115 high-impact projects across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in Federal funding, and projects are leveraging an estimated $400 million in partner contributions to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment.
Nearly 600 pre-proposals were submitted in 2014. The top pre-proposals were invited to submit a full proposal, and NRCS received 210 proposals requesting $1.4 billion – four times the available funding.
How Projects Were Selected
Projects were evaluated on four criteria:
Contributions –Projects will expand private lands conservation investment by leveraging partner contributions.
Solutions –Projects will provide real-time, measurable results to benefit individual farms, ranches and forests but also local economies and communities in watersheds and targeted geographic areas.
Innovations –Partners will creatively design projects by drawing all authorities into an integrated project.
Participation –Partners will pull new organizations into the fold and increase the diversity and number of stakeholders that participate in projects.
Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Improvement Initiative
Lead partner: Texas Water Resources Institute
The Lower Rio Grande Valley is experiencing significant population growth which has contributed to degraded water quality and limited water supplies, which has increased the need for improved irrigation efficiency. Through partners, funds and educational efforts will be leveraged to work with landowners to reduce nutrient and sediment loading in local water bodies as well as improve agricultural water use efficiency. This project will also enhance agricultural production in the Valley.
Texas Gulf Coast Stream and Wetland Initiative
Lead partner: Resource Institute Inc.
The Texas Gulf Coast region is experiencing rapid growth and development that is putting pressure on the aquatic resources of the region, and is contributing to the degradation of the Gulf of Mexico. The project will focus on the restoration and protection of headwater stream and wetland systems on agriculture land to improve function and provide protection against future developmental impacts. It will also work to improve water quality and quantity, reduce soil erosion, and enhance/create habitat for at risk species through education, outreach and engagement of landowners and land managers for installing conservation practices on their land in the region.
National Projects in Texas
Rice Stewardship Partnership – Sustaining the Future of Rice
Lead Partner: Ducks Unlimited, Inc.(DU)
The Rice Stewardship Partnership, composed of DU, the USA Rice Federation, and 44 collaborating partners, will assist up to 800 rice producers to address water quantity, water quality and wildlife habitat across 380,000 acres in Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. Using remote sensing to estimate bird population carrying capacity in shallow waters and the Field-to-Market Fieldprint Calculator to monitor results over time, the partners offer several innovations to augment conservation implementation and gain broader producer participation.
Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board
Board Member, Area 3
***Project acreage and other numbers are subject to change based on negotiations.