Iowa Watershed Projects to Receive Additional $2 Million From USDA

Funding from the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative will support water quality focused practices

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig highlighted $2 million in funding available over the next year from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that will support eight Iowa Water Quality Initiative (WQI) projects. The funding is through the USDA’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI) and will support practices that help improve water quality.

“USDA has been a key conservation partner for decades and we appreciate this additional funding focused on water quality. These are established state-funded, Water Quality Initiative projects that have a history of working directly with farmers and landowners. This additional funding will allow these projects to get even more proven practices on the ground,” Naig said.

Watershed projects selected for this funding include:

·         Boone River WQI (Kossuth, Humboldt, Wright, Hancock Counties)

·         Cedar Creek Partnership WQI (Wapello, Jefferson, Keokuk Counties)

·         Clayton County WQI (Clayton County)

·         Deep Creek WQI (Plymouth, Cherokee, O’Brien, Sioux Counties)

·         Lower Skunk WQI (Jefferson, Henry, Van Buren, Lee Counties)

·         Walnut Creek WQI (Pottawattamie, Montgomery, Page, Fremont Counties)

·         West Branch Floyd River WQI (Sioux County)

·         West Fork Crooked Creek WQI (Washington, Keokuk Counties)

In addition, Slocum Creek Watershed in Pottawattamie County is an existing MRBI project that will be funded again this year.

Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative

The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters.  The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff to address these issues.

The Initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.

The initiative is seeing some exciting results. This fall, 2,800 farmers invested an estimated $9 million in funding to match $5 million in state cost share funds to adopt cover crops, no-till or strip till, or use a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include more than 1,000 farmers using a practice for the first time and nearly 1,800 past users who are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced rate of cost share.

A total of 64 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. More than 250 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $42.2 million to go with the $31.5 million in state funding going to these projects.

More than $420 million in funding has been documented for efforts in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy last year. This represents a $32 million increase of funding in support of Iowa water quality programs and conservation efforts over the previous year.

Will Myers