New NRCS National Water Quality Initiative Targets Impaired Watersheds
May 10th, 2012
On Tuesday, May 8, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has launched a new National Water Quality Initiative with $33 million in FY2012 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding. The Initiative is targeted at improving water quality in small watersheds impaired by agricultural use that are listed on a state’s Clean Water Act Section 303d list of impaired watersheds.
The funding is intended to complement, rather than duplicate, funding available under the NRCS Mississippi River Basin Initiative and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative and the multi-agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
NRCS State Conservationists, in consultation with State Technical Committees and state environmental agencies, were authorized to choose from one to seven watersheds within their state for inclusion within the Initiative. The Initiative focuses on watersheds categorized as 12-digit hydrological units under the U.S. Geological Survey’s hydrological unit code (HUC) system. Generally, these 12-digit watersheds range from 10,000 acres to 40,000 acres.
NRCS has posted a map and a list of the selected watersheds on its website. In addition, many of the NRCS State Conservationists have posted announcements with details on the Initiative and state maps of the watersheds on their websites.
Farmers and ranchers in the selected watersheds can begin submitting applications for Initiative funding on May 18 with their NRCS State Conservationist or at a USDA service center. The application period closes on June 15. NRCS will select applications through a competitive process and began awarding contracts this summer.
Additional funding for on-farm conservation work may be available in some states from state environmental agencies through the EPA Section 319 grant program or other sources and from conservation organizations.
NRCS Chief Dave White also indicated during a teleconference for the announcement that NRCS would work with federal and state agencies, including among others the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to monitor the environmental outcomes of the Initiative.