Success Stories from the Hypoxia Task Force (HTF)
From Minnesota and Wisconsin to Louisiana and Mississippi, individual HTF states and federal agencies, as well as their partners, have undertaken a variety of successful projects and programs to reduce nutrient loads in order to improve water quality in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) and reduce the size of the Gulf hypoxic zone. A sample of these “success stories” is presented here geographically.
Click on the list below to explore these stories and learn more about the efforts being taken to reduce hypoxia throughout the Mississippi/Atchafalaya Basin.
EPA also maintains a website describing success stories where Clean Water Act section 319 grants provided funding for projects that reduced nonpoint source pollution (including nitrogen and phosphorus) to waterbodies nationwide. Learn more about these successful efforts that can ultimately help reduce the size of the hypoxic zone.
- Illinois River Watershed
- L'Anguille and Cache River Watersheds
- EPA 9 Element Watershed Management Plan Development
- Des Moines Water Reclamation Authority (WRA)
- Iowa SRF Sponsored Projects
- Integrated Wetland Landscape Systems Initiative
- Bayou Chene Ag 319 Project; Mermentau River Basin
- Bayou Que de Tortue Ag 319 Project; Mermentau River Basin
Illinois River Watershed. The Illinois River watershed, located in northwest Arkansas, has been the focus of multi-year efforts to reduce nutrient (phosphorus) loadings from nonpoint and point sources. Coordinated efforts in the Illinois River watershed have consisted of legal, regulatory, and voluntary reduction activities that have proved effective in nutrient reduction and water quality improvement. City, county, state, federal, and private industry partnerships have been formed to address nutrient management issues “on-the-ground” in local communities and have resulted in positive changes to existing policies and legal mechanisms available to support nutrient reduction. A few highlights of reduction efforts in the Illinois River watershed include:
- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) nutrient limits for wastewater dischargers
- Increased water quality monitoring and reporting
- Registration of all poultry and livestock production operations, on-farm nutrient management planning, certification of nutrient management planners and applicators
- Increased funding for USDA conservation and state nonpoint programs
- Research and study of new nutrient markets and market-based solutions
- Development of watershed phosphorus nutrient index
- Creation of proactive non-profit watershed groups and stakeholder involvement
The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) and its partners successfully addressed surface erosion from agricultural activities through cost-effective targeting of CWA section 319 funds. In 2014 - 2016 the Illinois River Watershed Partnership (IRWP) implemented Low Impact Development (LID) practices to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff.
Projects were designed and implemented to demonstrate LID techniques which included: porous pavers, a vegetated wall, a green roof, rain gardens, and a phosphorous-removal structure. The LID projects were installed at the IRWP Watershed Sanctuary in Cave Springs. This project showcased benefits of LID to overall watershed and community health, as well as providing information on how to implement such features throughout the watershed.
IRWP engaged approximately 10,774 participants for 24,145 hours of education, including low-impact development and watershed conservation topics. Participants visited the IRWP Watershed Sanctuary and Learning Center, were able to see firsthand how these LID elements function in the environment, learn more facts about watershed conservation, low-impact development through educational signage at each LID element outside and the processes demonstrated through educational displays inside the Watershed Learning Center. Programs for school field trips, workshops for all ages, and special events at the Sanctuary and Learning Center highlighted the adoption of LID practices for the Illinois River Watershed.
L’Anguille and Cache River Watersheds. The ANRC and its partners were able to successfully address surface erosion on agricultural lands through CWA section 319 funds. ANRC partnered with the St. Francis County Conservation District to cost share Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the L’Anguille watershed. Through the project, the District was able to offer landowners up to 40% cost share on certain water quality practices. The practices selected were deemed the most economical practices that offered great erosion control services at the same time. Between 2012 and 2015, land owners installed 25,554 feet of irrigation water conveyance, 49 water control structures, and 816 acres of cover crops. These practices are estimated to save around 2,000 tons of sediment annually.
ANRC also partnered with the Greene County Conservation District to do a similar project in the Upper Cache River Watershed. Again, BMPs were cost shared up to 40% to eligible landowners in the Poplar Creek sub-watershed. These practices included nearly 60 acres of tree and erosion control plantings, a grade stabilization structure, 8 sediment retention ponds, a water control structure, and 5,623 feet of water conveyance. These practices are estimated to mitigate at least 230 tons of sediment annually.
EPA 9 Element Watershed Management Plan Development – Between 2014 and 2016, ANRC has been involved with the development of several Watershed Management Plans (WMPs) in the state. The city of Fort Smith initiated WMP’s for Lee Creek and Frog Bayou in northwest Arkansas with funding help from ANRC thru CWA section 319 funding. These plans were first initiated by the city to help protect drinking water sources, but ended up becoming an all-encompassing 9 element WMPs. These WMP’s were accepted by EPA in 2015.
ANRC also has used state funds during this time period to develop WMPs on three of the state’s non-point source priority watersheds (Lower Little River, Cache River, and the Strawberry River). ANRC contracted with FTN and associates to develop these WMP’s on the 8-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC8) scale. The main purpose of these 9 element plans is to identify causes and sources of pollution, so that resources can be acquired and targeted in the watershed. All three WMP’s were developed and submitted to EPA in 2015-2016. All three WMP’s have been accepted by EPA as well.
Blue Creek. Sedimentation from hydromodification and agriculture resulted in degraded habitat for aquatic life in Illinois’ Blue Creek. As a result, Illinois added the creek to its Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list for sedimentation impairment in 1998. In the early 2000s project partners implemented best management practices (BMPs) in the upper watershed that decreased sedimentation. As a result of these efforts, water quality improved and Illinois removed Blue Creek from its section 303(d) list in 2014.
Illinois EPA provided staff hours to administer $1,439,044 of USEPA CWA section 314(h)/319(h) funding that was provided for BMPs. USDA provided $32,000 in Farm Bill funding. Illinois DNR/Illinois SWS provided $459,333 of in-kind funds, and Illinois Department of Agriculture and Pike County SWCD provided $223,332 in state and local funds. The city of Pittsfield provided $132,110 in city funds. Lastly, the Farm Bureau of Pike County helped educate producers about BMPs, conducted outreach and evaluated possible participation interests.
Lake Vermilion. Industrial and municipal point sources of pollution, agricultural sources of nonpoint source pollution, and hydrologic and habitat modifications led to low levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) in Illinois’ Lake Vermilion and Hoopeston Branch, a tributary to the North Fork Vermilion River. As a result, the state added Lake Vermilion to its Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2002 and added Hoopeston Branch in 2004. Project partners implemented best management practices (BMPs) throughout the Lake Vermilion watershed, leading to water quality improvements. The two waterbodies now meet water quality standards for DO, prompting the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) to remove them from the state’s CWA 303(d) list—Lake Vermilion in 2006 and Hoopeston Branch in 2008.
The Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation District, Consumers Illinois Water Company, local landowners, and others cooperated to implement nonpoint source control projects in the Lake Vermilion watershed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided $730,213 in CWA section 319 funding to implement BMPs in the watershed between 1997 and 2012. Project partners provided $565,702 in local match funding. All entities combined have invested a total of $1,295,915 in these projects.
Honey Creek. Sediment and organic matter from eroding streambanks and cropland areas caused low dissolved oxygen conditions in Illinois’s Honey Creek. As a result, Honey Creek failed to support its aquatic life designated use, prompting the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) to add a 13-mile-long segment of the creek to the list of impaired waters in the 1992–1993 Illinois Water Quality Report. Stakeholders stabilized stream channels and worked with local landowners to implement best management practices (BMPs) to reduce sedimentation/siltation and organic enrichment loading into the creek. Water quality improved, prompting Illinois EPA to remove the creek from the state’s list of impaired waters in 2008. Honey Creek now fully supports its designated use for aquatic life.
Contributing a total of $380,661 of CWA section 319 funds, Illinois EPA partnered with the Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District, Bay Creek River Conservancy District, and local landowners to implement BMPs in the Honey Creek watershed. Local partners provided $253,774 in matching funds, bringing the total cost for the Honey Creek Watershed Project to $634,435.
Tillage & Cover Crop Transects. The tillage transect is a cropland survey conducted each spring following planting in each county by ICP personnel and Earth Team volunteers. Using a predetermined route, staff look at farm fields in their county collecting data on tillage methods, plant cover, residue, etc., in order to tell the story of conservation efforts in Indiana. The survey uses GPS technology and provides a statistically reliable method for estimating farm management and related annual trends. Transects are usually conducted bi-annually in the spring after crops are planted.
In addition, in the fall of 2014, the first-ever statewide cover crop and fall tillage transect was done in Indiana. This was done as part of a collaborative effort between ISDA, USDA NRCS, Indiana's 92 SWCDs and other members of the Indiana Conservation Partnership (ICP). The 2014 fall transect estimated 1 million acres of living plant cover such as cover crops and winter cereal grains were planted on Indiana farms. The report also shows most Indiana farmers left their tillage equipment in the shed in the fall to protect their fields with harvested crop residues. Results for residues and undisturbed soil on harvested acres during the winter months include: 77% of corn acres, 79% of small grain acres, and 82% of soybean acres.
The fall cover crop and tillage transect occurred again in 2015, and according to the data, over 1.1 million acres of cover crops were planted in 2015, which is an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to the previous year and 225 times more coverage over the past decade. The fall tillage and cover crop transect will be conducted again in late 2016.
Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Project. In August 2012, representatives from the states of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio signed an agreement to create the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Program (http://wqt.epri.com/), a pilot program allowing farmers and industrial facilities to trade pollution credits to reduce fertilizer run-off and nutrient discharges. It is aimed at achieving water quality standards in watersheds along the Ohio River by allowing dischargers to purchase pollution reductions from other sources. The project was conceived by Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in conjunction with the states of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, American Farmland Trust, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and ORSANCO. It was initially funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to the EPRI and is now privately funded and supported by over a dozen organizations and utilities like AEP and Duke Power with technical support from local, state and federal agencies. Indiana counties participating include Wayne, Dearborn, Ripley, Ohio, and Switzerland. The ISDA-DSC District Support Specialist for the region has been serving as an advisor and representative for the project and works with EPRI, American Farmland Trust, DSC Resource Specialists, participating County SWCDs, and USDA-NRCS District Conservationists.
The Electric Power Research Institute’s Ohio River Basin Trading Pilot Project is a first-of-its-kind inter-state trading program with participation from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Indiana alone has been contracted to remove 22,000 pounds of total nitrogen and 11,000 pounds of total phosphorus over the five-year period of the pilot. A total of $100,000 in cost-share monies for each of the three partner states were distributed to farmers for implementation of approved water quality Best Management Practices. In Indiana practices for cover crops, heavy use protection areas for livestock, and cropland to hayland conversion were approved. All practices have been installed for two years and continue to be inspected and verified by DSC staff. This project has not only gained regional interest, but also international attention, and is the largest water quality trading project in the world. In 2014, the project was featured in many newsletters and articles, including the Wall Street Journal. In the fall of 2016, ISDA-DSC entered into another funding contract with EPRI to provide cost share to forestry practices for the entire Ohio River Basin Watershed in Indiana.
Des Moines Water Reclamation Authority (WRA). Des Moines WRA approved funding to install an Ostara phosphorus recovery process (ostara.com). This technology is expected to remove approximately 365 tons of phosphorus per year from their wastewater and instead provide a marketable product that will be sold as fertilizer. Although, the original purpose was to reduce the buildup of struvite, which causes operational and maintenance issues and increases costs, it is expected to significantly reduce the amount of total phosphorus in the wastewater stream. The new facility is planned for completion by 2019.
Iowa SRF Sponsored Projects. Iowa law allows sewer utility revenues to finance a new category of projects, called “water resource restoration sponsored projects.” This includes locally directed, watershed-based projects to address water quality concerns. Prior to 2009, utility revenues could only be used for construction and improvements for the wastewater system itself. Now, wastewater utilities can also finance and pay for projects, within or outside the corporate limits, which cover best management practices for nonpoint sources. The Sponsored Projects program has been implemented through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), a loan program for construction of water quality facilities and practices. On a typical CWSRF loan, the utility borrows principal and repays principal plus interest and fees. On a CWSRF loan with a sponsored project, the utility borrows for both the wastewater improvement project and the sponsored project. However, through an overall interest rate reduction, the utility’s ratepayers do not pay any more than they would have for just the wastewater improvements. Instead, two water quality projects are completed for the cost of one.
The dollar amount available for a sponsored project equals approximately $100,000 per $1 million wastewater loan, or about 10% of the wastewater loan amount. Iowa has set aside a total of $35 million for sponsored projects through fiscal year 2016. After launching the pilot project with the City of Dubuque, Iowa’s SRF opened the program to other communities during FY 2014. Including the pilot project and the six funding rounds since then, a total of $45 million has been committed to 57 projects.
Integrated Wetland Landscape Systems Initiative. Building upon the Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), IDALS and multiple stakeholders embarked on a pilot project to demonstrate a market-driven effort to improve water quality while improving crop production through leveraged infrastructure improvements. Wetlands are a capital intensive practice to install and at current funding levels, Iowa is implementing 3-4 targeted, nutrient removal wetlands annually. Also, there are over 3,000 organized drainage districts that oversee and maintain infrastructure to facilitate crop production in primarily central and north central Iowa. This infrastructure was installed 100 years ago and is nearing the end of its useful life. The pilot project looked to work with drainage districts to reinstall their systems integrated with targeted wetlands to couple crop production improvements with WQ improvements through both lower reduced surface runoff, with targeted wetlands for nitrate reduction.
Five pilot projects have been completed protecting over 12,700 acres of cropland, with the capacity to reduce total nitrate loss of over 150,000 lbs/year. This would be the equivalent of taking over 5,000 acres of land out of production. However, this project resulted in just over 98 acres of wetlands restored, plus 320 acres (2.5% of affected watersheds) of additional buffer and wildlife habitat, protected into perpetuity.
More importantly, this project demonstrated a market driven ability to facilitate advancing water quality improvement with significantly reduced dependence on state and/or federal programs, a rarity for this type of practice.
From Boot Camp to Jamboree: Successful Partnerships in Kentucky. Kentucky’s agricultural landscape is diverse, both in terms of animal and plant production systems. These systems are supported with research-based information from land-grant universities, federal technical agencies, and regulated through state agencies. To ensure accurate and up-to-date information is available for agricultural producers, the KY Division of Compliance Assistance partnered with the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Kentucky Divisions of Conservation and Water to host multiple workshops for each entity’s personnel. Ag Boot Camp served as a primer for basic agricultural information related to environmental compliance, and was targeted to agency personnel with limited ag backgrounds. Agricultural Professionals Workshops (Jamborees) were targeted to project partners’ regional offices to connect personnel to agency counterparts and clear up confusion regarding who is responsible for which pieces of the agricultural and regulatory information for farmers. More than 200 people attended the workshops that were held across the state. As a result of these workshops, 96% of attendees agreed that they would be able to apply the information that they gained in their jobs. Additionally, more than 50% expressed a desire for additional training on environmental regulations, nutrient management or partner agency interactions. Three of the agencies report increased communications as a result of the workshops. We plan to grow the program in the future by adding other agencies and specific hands-on training as requested by participants.
Bayou Chene Ag 319 Project; Mermentau River Basin. One of the suspected sources for dissolved oxygen and fecal impairments in the Bayou Chene watershed is agriculture. Runoff from unmanaged agricultural land can carry excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus into streams, lakes, and groundwater supplies. These excess nutrients have the potential to degrade water quality. In Bayou Chene, Nonpoint source pollution was estimated to be 65% of the total pollutant load during the summer and 75% of the total during the winter months. The key to reducing the critical NPS runoff in the watershed is to eliminate the spring discharge of muddy water from the rice fields. The application of BMPs will allow farmers to reduce the muddy discharges that occur during planting season. Instead of mudding in, the rice farmers can utilize precision leveling techniques, and instead of aerial seeding into flooded fields, farmers can drill rice seed into a dry seedbed. Regarding soybean rotation practices, simply eliminating the fall tillage operations and leaving the crop residue on the field causes a significant amount of soil to be retained on the fields over the winter months when the area experiences heavy and frequent rain events. Evaluation of these rice and soybean practices has indicated that sediments and nutrients could be reduced by 50-75% from the traditional practices. These are the types of steps that will be taken by the rice and soybean farmers in the Bayou Chene watershed to reduce the nonpoint source loads entering the bayous.
The Jefferson Davis SWCD assessed the natural resource concerns for the Bayou Chene Watershed. The top natural resource priorities are: improving water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat, and reducing soil erosion. EPA Section 319 funds will address a large proportion of these conservation needs. This project will: 1) integrate efforts presently being implemented by project partners, 2) increase the level of conservation practice implementation within the critical watershed areas, 3) help producers voluntarily implement conservation practices that avoid, control, and trap nutrient runoff, 4) improve wildlife habitat, 5) maintain agricultural productivity and the local economy by providing financial incentives.
Bayou Que de Tortue Ag 319 Project; Mermentau River Basin. The objective of this project is to improve water quality and reduce NPS pollutant loads associated with agricultural activities in the Bayou Queue de Tortue Watershed of the Mermentau River Basin. To reduce NPS pollution and improve water quality, via a reduction in annual loads of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and organic materials entering these water bodies, BMPs such as grade stabilization structures, irrigation land leveling, dry seeding of rice, seasonal residue management, nutrient management, pest management, and other practices are being planned and implemented.
One key component of this project includes school, community, and agricultural education and information outreach programs that will include the use of educational materials such as flyers, brochures and curriculum guides. An agricultural BMP field day will be held within the project watershed to demonstrate the potential for reducing stream loading from agricultural activities through the implementation of BMPs. A special effort will be made to encourage landowners and operators to participate in the environmental education events, and to pursue Louisiana Master Farmer Certification
The long-term success will be evaluated based on how well water quality meets state water quality standards within the impacted stream sub-basins in the Mermentau River Basin. The short-term success will be measured by continuous application of new and management of existing BMPs and related conservation practices that reduce sediment, nutrients, pesticides and organic material entering the river basin on an annual basis. All related BMPs and related practices will be monitored at the 12-digit HUC (HUC12) level at predetermined sampling sites.
Sauk River Chain of Lakes. The Sauk River Chain of Lakes is an interconnected system of 14 bay-like lakes fed by the Sauk River in Central Minnesota. The Sauk River Chain of Lakes is impaired by phosphorus and total suspended solids due to row cropping and livestock operations, as well as discharges from on-site septic systems. Agricultural BMPs and upgrades to septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment facilities throughout the Sauk River Chain of Lakes watershed have reduced total phosphorus concentrations to 176 micrograms per liter (μg/L), nearly achieving the regional goal of 100–150 μg/L and representing a 48 percent decrease in total phosphorus loading.
Project costs since 1999 are estimated at $3.1 million. CWA section 319 provided $1,200,000 in funding to assist farmers with installing agricultural BMPs, erosion control measures, municipal stormwater BMPs, shore land BMPs and to provide a septic system maintenance education program. Other funding sources included NRCS’ EQIP/MRBI ($18,482,624), the Minnesota state cost-share program ($267,717), MPCA Clean Water Partnership funds ($1,034,250), DNR Habitat ($334,403) BWSR CWF (427,412), CRP ($5,762,400) and the CWA State Revolving Fund ($3.9 million in loans).
Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, located 2.5 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, receives urban runoff delivering high levels of phosphorus and sediment from its fully developed 7,000-acre watershed. By implementing a widespread public education campaign, sediment control measures, and other practices throughout the watershed, the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Clean Water Partnership achieved significant in-stream reductions in sediment and phosphorus, which has helped to keep most of the lakes off the state’s CWA 303(d) list and has also brought a listed stream close to meeting water quality standards.
Most of the initiative was locally funded by the Minneapolis Park Recreation Board ($1.5 million), Minnehaha Creek Watershed District ($6.1 million), City of Minneapolis ($2.6 million), City of St. Louis Park ($663,000), and Hennepin County. MPCA provided critical diagnostic and seed money ($1.2 million). CWA section 319 funds totaled $255,000 and were used to fund kickoff efforts for the education campaign, a demonstration project on Lake Calhoun showing the effects of alum treatments, and research on the interaction between alum and milfoil (an invasive species).
Heron Lake Watershed. Runoff from agricultural and urban areas contributed phosphorus and sediment to water bodies in Minnesota’s Heron Lake watershed. Because three of the watershed lakes failed to meet Minnesota’s water quality standards, MPCA added them to the CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters—North Heron and South Heron lakes in 2002 and Fulda Lake in 2008. Implementing BMPs and conducting public outreach in the watershed have led to significant water quality improvements.
From 2007 to 2011, the Heron Lake Watershed District provided cost-share to encourage landowners in the Fulda Lakes subwatershed to implement conservation tillage, critical area plantings, and shoreline restoration projects to reduce water pollution. Landowners implemented conservation tillage on 5,828.5 acres. Watershed partners completed three shoreline restoration projects, ranging from a simple filter strip to a complex restoration involving a complete bank stabilization using all bioengineered practices. The district held a walking tour to showcase the shoreline restorations. According to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources’ eLINK system, implementing these practices prevented 1,251 pounds per year of phosphorus and 1,312 tons per year of sediment from leaving the land surface.
Restoration work in the Heron Lake watershed was supported by $114,043 in CWA section 319 funding. The district served as the project sponsor and lead agency, providing $59,880 in cash match and $37,325 through in-kind match.
Orphan Creek. Agricultural nutrients, cattle with access to the creek or tributaries, and sediment erosion in pasture land contributed nonpoint source pollution to Mississippi’s Orphan Creek. Water quality monitoring conducted in 2001 and 2003 indicated that Orphan Creek was not attaining aquatic life designated use support, which is intended to assure that a waterbody is healthy enough to support the propagation of fish and wildlife that use the water. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) added Orphan Creek to the state’s 2006 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list for aquatic life use impairment. The Dead Tiger/Orphan Creek Nonpoint Source Project significantly reduced sediment and nutrients entering Orphan Creek through the implementation of best management practices (BMPs). Using the data collected in 2009, Orphan Creek was assessed as attaining aquatic life use support as part of the 2012 CWA section 305(b) statewide assessment process.
Due to the high level of stakeholder interest, the restoration of Orphan Creek was a collective effort between the Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the MDEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the NRCS, and the Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District. The total cost of the overall Dead Tiger/Orphan Creek watershed project was $206,779, of which $122,247 was comprised of CWA section 319 funds. Section 319 funds were expended in the following way: $15,319 for technical assistance; $3,273 for education and information outreach; and $103,655 for BMP installation. Participating state and local stakeholders contributed a total of $84,532 towards the implementation of the watershed project.
Caney Creek. Sedimentation and organic enrichment from silvicultural and agricultural activities impacted water quality in Mississippi’s Caney Creek. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) placed Caney Creek on the state’s 2002 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters for aquatic life use impairment. Implementing best management practices (BMPs) as part of the Pickwick Reservoir Tributaries Restoration and Protection Project significantly reduced sediment and nutrients entering Caney Creek. As a result, a 4.99-mile segment of Caney Creek was assessed as attaining the aquatic life use in the state’s 2014 CWA section 305(b) report.
The restoration of Caney Creek was a collective effort between the Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, MDEQ, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NRCS and the Tishomingo County Soil and Water Conservation District. The total cost of the overall Pickwick Reservoir Tributaries Restoration and Protection Project was $1,219,228, of which $720,900 was comprised of CWA section 319 funds. Section 319 funds were expended in the following way: $139,006 for technical assistance, $42,417 for education and information outreach, and $540,477 for BMP installation. Participating state and local stakeholders contributed a total of $498,328 towards the implementation of the watershed project.
North Fork Salt River Watershed. The North Fork Salt River Watershed in northeast Missouri has been one of the first focus watersheds for the department’s Our Missouri Waters effort. The streams of this watershed flow downstream to Mark Twain Lake, where this water serves as source water for the Clarence Cannon Wholesale Water Commission’s public water system. Their ten million gallon per day treatment plant treats raw water and sends drinking water to its member systems in 14 counties, which together serve over 70,000 people. In 2015, the water commission collaborated with the department and several local partners, including local soil and water conservation districts, University of Missouri Extension, local seed dealers, the Missouri Rural Water Association, and the Missouri Department of Conservation to sponsor a source water protection project, with the goal of increasing awareness about the watershed and promoting soil health (through cover crops) in the watershed. Adding cover crops into a farming operation costs approximately $20 to $50 per acre per year, depending on the type of cover crop used and the planting method. However, after using cover crops for several years, the long-term goal is that the cost of using cover crops is offset through a decreased need for herbicides and fertilizers, and an increase in soil productivity and crop yields. For Missouri watersheds, the use of cover crops in row crops fields has the potential to not only improve soil health and the sustainability of our farmland, they also can play a large role in reducing soil erosion, reducing nutrient runoff, increasing infiltration of water into the soil, and decreasing runoff of water from the landscape.
The department’s Soil and Water Conservation Program also offers cost-share assistance for landowners wanting to plant cover crops on their farm. In the six counties that make up the North Fork Salt River watershed, local soil and water conservation districts have provided cost-share assistance to farm operators to plant cover crops on over 12,000 acres of farmland, and funding through the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service has assisted with planting cover crops on an additional 120 acres.
Olentangy River. Lowhead dam structures, failing home septic systems, and increased agricultural and urban stormwater runoff had degraded water quality in Ohio’s Olentangy River. Failing home sewage treatment system units contributed nutrients to the river, and high-volume stormwater flows contributed silt and sediment. As a result, in 2002, Ohio EPA added a watershed-based unit of the river to the state’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters for failure to meet the water quality standards associated with the unit’s designated warm-water habitat aquatic life use. Because of work completed through the Olentangy River Restoration Project, approximately three miles of the Olentangy River now fully attain the designated warmwater habitat aquatic life use.
Key partners included the City of Delaware; Delaware County General Health District; Preservation Parks; Ohio’s Scenic Rivers; Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT); ODNR, Division of Soil and Water Resources; and Ohio EPA. EPA, Ohio EPA, the City of Delaware, and ODOT provided project funding. The city received a $105,000 CWA section 104(b)(3) grant to help support dam removals. Approximately $6.3 million was provided through Ohio EPA’s Water Resources Restoration Program for land and conservation easement acquisition. The health district received approximately $110,000 in CWA section 319 funding to support home sewage treatment system inspections and replacements. In addition, $70,000 in Ohio EPA Surface Water Improvement funds was awarded to the city of Delaware for additional dam removal work. All monitoring was completed by staff from Ohio EPA’s Ecological Assessment Unit.
4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification. The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification programExit is a voluntary program launched in March 2014 to encourage agricultural retailers, service providers, and other certified professionals to adopt proven best practices through the 4Rs. The program is governed and guided by the Nutrient Stewardship Council, a diverse set of stakeholders from business, government, university, and nongovernmental sectors with a common goal of maintaining agricultural productivity while also improving water quality. The program, administered by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association (http://4rcertified.org/), currently has 71 participating retail branch locations. Total acreage and clients served has reached 2,700,000 and 5,500, respectively. The program’s initial focus was in northern Ohio due to concerns about deteriorating water quality in Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys. In the past two years the program has expanded its coverage within the Ohio River drainage where services have been provided to 1,500 clients covering 800,000 acres. Participating retailers must comply with up to 43 specific business and operational performance criteria established by the Nutrient Stewardship Council and audited by an independent third party. Three retailers involved with piloting the program have achieved certified status. The interest and enthusiasm generated by the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification in its first year is very positive and sustaining the program should promote long-term improvements in soil health and water quality.
Cloyd Creek. Pasture grazing activities and livestock in the stream along Tennessee’s Cloyd Creek contributed to silt runoff and physical substrate habitat alterations that degraded water quality. As a result, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) added the creek to the state’s 2002 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters due to siltation and physical substrate habitat alterations. Landowners installed numerous agricultural best management practices (BMPs) along Cloyd Creek, including fencing for livestock exclusion, heavy-use areas with watering facilities for livestock, and cropland conversion. Water quality improved, prompting TDEC to remove Cloyd Creek from Tennessee’s list of impaired waters for siltation and physical substrate habitat alterations in 2010.
Funding for Cloyd Creek BMPs included $28,885 in CWA section 319 grant pool funds, with local matching funds of $13,637. Local landowners contributed $10,574 to the project. The Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund (a fund created through Tennessee’s real estate transfer tax) provided another $26,994 in cost-share funds to help Tennessee landowners install BMPs. U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Bill funds also supported installation of practices from 2004 to 2011.
Goose Creek. Land development contributed to increased siltation in Tennessee’s Goose Creek and degraded water quality. As a result, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) added the creek to the state’s Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2004. Best management practices (BMPs) implemented in the watershed improved water quality, and Goose Creek was removed from Tennessee’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2010.
Funding sources included CWA section 319 grants totaling $51,971, which were allocated for improvements made along Goose Creek and its tributaries. Stakeholders used $36,009 from the ARCF.
McKnight Branch. Pasture grazing along Tennessee’s McKnight Branch contributed to damaged riparian areas, increased stream siltation, and habitat alteration, prompting the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to add the stream to the state’s Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2000. Project partners implemented agricultural best management practices (BMPs) that reduced siltation and improved water quality. As a result, TDEC removed McKnight Branch from the state’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2010.
BMP installation was supported by the state’s Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund (created through Tennessee’s real estate transfer tax), NRCS Farm Bill funding, and matching funds from landowners.
2015 Yahara Pride Farms Outcomes. A Producer-led Council, Yahara Pride Farms combines a diverse set of partners including the Clean Lakes Alliance, the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, UW-Extension-Dane County, and over twenty other agribusiness and cooperative organizations. To increase the use of conservation practices in the watershed, Yahara Pride Farms provides a cost-share program. The goal of the cost-share program is to allow farmers the opportunity to test new, innovative technologies at a minimized risk, in hopes that farmers will see the benefits from the technology and incorporate the practice into their standard operations. Across the state, farmers and municipalities alike are taking note of the successes of Yahara Pride Farms and working to replicate aspects of the program.
In 2015, farmers in the program documented the adoption of practices that reduced phosphorus delivery to the Madison chain of lakes and the Yahara River (Rock River Basin) by 8,642 lbs. Since 2012, farmers have documented a total phosphorus delivery reduction of 15,872 lbs. Documented practices include: cover crops, strip tillage, low disturbance manure injection, manure composting and low disturbance deep tillage. New data shows the promise of even greater reductions if practices are combined (known as stacking practices) and when practices are used for several years in a row.
Pecatonica Watershed. The Nature Conservancy/Wisconsin is working with farmers to test a new approach to improving water quality in up Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. The results of a nine-year effort to improve water quality in a tributary of the Pecatonica River in Dane and Green counties in southwest Wisconsin shows that targeting the application of conservation practices agricultural lands with the highest estimated phosphorus runoff to streams, rather than randomly throughout a watershed, will result in cleaner water.
Water quality monitoring data, following a three-year implementation period, show a 55% decrease in phosphorus loading in the test watershed. These results are the result of the conservation practices that farmers put into place. With 95% confidence this result is statistically significant. Similarly, the reduction in phosphorus concentration was also significant. These results were obtained through the use of a paired watershed study using a test and a control watershed. The project focused on 11 farmers with fields and pastures with the highest estimated runoff phosphorus losses during storm events. Farmers who changed their management practices reduced both their estimated phosphorus and sediment losses by about half, keeping an estimated average 4,400 pounds of phosphorus and 1,300 tons of sediment out of the water each year.
Another way to think about the reduction in phosphorus loading is this: “on a warm spring day with steady rainfall, if there would have been 500 pounds of phosphorus run-off without the project, after farmers put conservation practices in place on targeted fields and pastures there would only be 225 pounds.”