DES MOINES — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced that four successful watershed-based demonstration projects funded in 2014, and set to end this year, will receive a 2nd round of funding. The locally-led projects will build upon previous demonstration objectives and continue working towards accelerated implementation of practices that improve water quality.
“Extending these projects will allow us to build on the strong foundation that has been created in these watersheds and continue to learn more about the best ways to get water-quality-focused practices on the land. These projects create a great opportunity for farmers to see practices up close and better understand how they might work on their own farm,” Northey said.
The projects receiving extensions are the Cedar Creek Partnership Project (Wapello County), Deep Creek Water Quality Initiative Project (Plymouth County), Lower Skunk Water Quality and Soil Health Initiative (Henry County), and the Walnut Creek Watershed Project (Montgomery County). More details about each of the projects can be found at https://www.cleanwateriowa.
These projects will receive a total of $1.88 million in additional funding through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative over the next three years. In addition to the state funds, these four projects will access approximately $4.1 million in matching funds to support water quality improvement efforts as well as other in-kind contributions.
These funds will allow the projects to focus on scaling up implementation of conservation practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and continue to build on existing assessment and evaluation methods. Also, an additional $200,000 has been allocated for these projects which will be targeted towards implementation of select priority nutrient reduction conservation practices including wetlands, saturated buffers and bioreactors.
These four projects will continue to build upon existing partnerships as well as expand efforts to include new partnerships developed during the first three years. Thirteen new partners have joined the existing 37 partners currently involved in these projects. Partners include agriculture organizations, institutions of higher education, private industry, the local, state and federal government, and others, all working together to move conservation based water quality efforts forward.
“These projects are hitting their stride in terms of engaging farmers, getting practices on the ground and coordinating with partners and stakeholders. We have always understood that it would take a long-term commitment to improvement in these watersheds and I’m excited to continue to learn from these projects as we work to scale-up and expand water quality efforts across the state,” Northey said.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship also has been successful in securing additional federal resources for several of these projects through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Project (RCPP). These funds, when paired with Iowa Water Quality Initiative and partner investments, do more than what any one group or organization can accomplish alone.
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. Last fall, 1,800 farmers committed $3.8 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices. The practices that were eligible for this funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include 980 farmers using a practice for the first time and more than 830 past users that are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced-rate of cost share. Farmers using cost-share funding are providing an estimated $6 million in their own funding to adopt these water quality practices. Farmers can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office if they are interested using one of these practices.
A total of 56 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. This includes 15 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 34 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 200 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $30.6 million dollars to go with the $19.0 million in state funding going to these projects.
More than $340 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost-share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs and funds spent to build practices built without government assistance.
More information about the initiative can be found at www.CleanWaterIowa.org.
— Iowa Department of Agriculture
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