EPA Nonpoint Source Measures Report for Hypoxia Task Force States

HTF MS River statesEPA has published its “Progress Report on Coordination for Nonpoint Source Measures in Hypoxia Task Force States” that provides a summary of nutrient reduction measures among member states. The report was developed by the Hypoxia Task Force Nonpoint Source Workgroup and focuses on the coordinated effort to account for nonpoint source (NPS) changes, primarily agricultural, that influence nutrient loading from a variety of methods. This effort provides additional critical metrics for tracking and informing progress towards reducing nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico that complements other historical aspects of tracking nutrient loading, including Mississippi River and tributary water quality monitoring and tracking point source metrics. For more information and to read the report, visit the website.

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ACWA Releases First State Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracker Report

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The Association of State Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) has released its Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracker 1.0. The report summarizes the survey data received from state clean water programs in the fall of 2017 on state progress to reduce nutrient loads beyond the adoption of numeric nutrient criteria for lakes, estuaries, and flowing waters. This is the first in what will be a series of Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracker reports and includes responses from 31 states on state strategies, monitoring, assessment, non-point sources, point sources, and drinking water.

The ACWA Nutrients Working Group (NWG) that developed the Tracker is a partnership between ACWA, EPA, and ASDWA and currently includes two drinking water questions about the number of public water systems (PWSs) in violation of the Nitrate MCL and the estimated number and percent of PWSs operating to meet the Nitrate MCL. ASDWA is providing input on additional drinking water questions for next year’s Tracker survey that would help further explain the impacts of nutrient pollution on PWSs, both in terms of cost avoidance and additional costs for treatment, beyond conventional treatment. To view the report and to learn more about this effort, go here.

Two USDA NRCS Funding Opportunities Available for Easement Restoration and State Conservation Innovation Grants

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Easement Restoration Funding:  NRCS is requesting proposals from qualified individuals and organizations to complete restoration work on eligible degraded wetland, floodplain and forestland properties. Up to $250 million is available for these restoration projects in all 50 states and territories. Restoration activities may include: designing restoration plans, installing conservation practices including structural and vegetative, construction management and inspection. Agreements will be three years in length. Potential applicants should review the funding opportunity, USDA-NRCS-US-WRP-ACEP- EWPP-HFRP-18-01, at https://www.grants.gov/, which includes application materials and submission procedures. Applications are due by May 18, 2018. For more information on wetland, floodplain and forestland easements, visit the NRCS easements page. See the full announcement here USDA-NRCS-US-WRP-ACEP-EWPP-HFRP-18-01.

State Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG):  The NRCS CIG offers both national and state grant competitions. The national competition closed in late February but in 2018, twenty states are offering CIG funding opportunities and many state competitions are still open. These state CIG competitions target small projects (maximum award size is $75,000) that address natural resource concerns (including drinking water quality) at a local or state level. The following states and territories currently have opportunities posted on Grants.gov LAORMDMIMOVAAZMECAIDKSSDPAGANMRINYIAOK, the Pacific Island Area and the Caribbean Area. For more information on any of these competitions, please contact the relevant NRCS state office.

 

EPA Fact Sheet on Funding Agricultural BMPs with CWSRF

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EPA has published a fact sheet on how the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) can be used for agricultural best management practices (BMPs) to protect water quality, including drinking water sources. The fact sheet shares information about the types of projects that can be funded, along with state examples highlighting the Maryland and Virginia Farm Credit Banks that can provide financing to farmers for the entire cost of a project and can be partially repaid by a USDA grant; and the Minnesota Ag BMP Loan Program that has used CWSRF funds for over 13,000 projects by leveraging funding from the state and other sources. State drinking water programs are encouraged to reach out to their Clean Water Act program partners to discuss CWSRF funding options like this (if you haven’t already) that may be used to implement BMPs in sensitive source water protection areas. View the fact sheet here.  For more information about other uses of the CWSRF, you may also want to read through EPA’s document entitled “Financing Options for Nontraditional Eligibilities in the CWSRF Programs“.

USDA Releases 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles

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On January 24th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles document. The principles in the document are categorized into a variety of topics to serve as a roadmap for Congress to understand and address the needs of agricultural and forest landowners in the next Farm Bill. Some of the principles in the document that can support drinking water protection include:

  • Ensure that voluntary conservation programs balance farm productivity with conservation benefits…
  • Support conservation programs that ensure cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resource benefits.
  • Expand Good Neighbor Authority and increase coordination with states to promote job creation and improve forest health through shared stewardship and stakeholder input.
  • Offer the tools and resources that incentivize private stewardship and retention of forest land.

For more information, visit USDA’s website to read the press release and view the principles document.

One Water Agriculture-Utility Partnerships Webinar

medium_resources_bigidea_2On Wednesday, January 31st from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (eastern), the US Water Alliance will hold its next webinar entitled, “Accelerate Agriculture-Utility Partnerships to Improve Water Quality,” as part of its One Water for America Policy Framework webinar series on their Seven Big Ideas. Speakers will include partners from the Tualatin and Middle Cedar Watersheds. Register for the webinar here.

New SWC Learning Exchange: Source Water Protection through Conservation Funding

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The Source Water Collaborative is pleased to announce its latest Learning Exchange, “Source Water Protection through Conservation Funding.” This new module features stories from drinking water industry and conservation leaders who have capitalized on resources provided through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to target source water protection through voluntary local conservation partnerships.

  • Visit the Learning Exchange web page to find case studies and information resources aimed at supporting groups considering submitting an RCPP application, including examples of successful proposals, links to application guides, an interactive map with details of RCPP-supported source water protection partnerships.
  • Register for the January 11 webinar that will be held from 1:30 to 3:00 pm (eastern) entitled, ‘Conservation Funding & Drinking Water Utilities: Partnering for Success,” featuring Jimmy Bramblett, the USDA NRCS’ Deputy Chief of Programs, and a presentation from Iowa’s Middle Cedar Rapids Partnership.

We look forward to your participation in this Learning Exchange. Please reach out to info@sourcewatercollaborative.org if you have additional resources, stories, or examples to share or if you would like to receive emails from the Collaborative about upcoming events and news.

USDA NWQI Adds 30 New Watersheds and $30 Million to Improve Water Quality in 2018

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 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest more than $30 million this year in 201 high-priority watersheds across the country through its National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). This includes 30 new watersheds where targeted assistance will help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces and buffers to improve water (and drinking water) quality. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds this assistance, and in some cases, is leveraged by funds from local and state partners. State drinking water programs should coordinate with their state clean water program and their USDA NRCS state conservationist and technical committee to include drinking water priorities in these watersheds and projects. Visit the NWQI website for more information and to see the list of watersheds.

 

USDA RFA and Webinar for Conservation Innovation Grants

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USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced a Request for Applications (RFA) for its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. NRCS is making $10 million available through CIG this year to fund innovative ideas for conservation strategies and technologies. The three focus areas for grant funding include grazing lands, organic systems, and soil health. Grant proposals are due February 26, 2018.

CIG is authorized and funded under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Projects can last up to three years and the maximum award amount for any project this year is $2 million. Since 2004, NRCS has invested nearly $286.7 million in more than 700 projects focused on providing farmers and ranchers new techniques, data and decision-making tools for improving natural resources conservation on their land, that can also help improve drinking water quality. All U.S. based entities and individuals are invited to apply, except for Federal agencies. Up to 20 percent of CIG funds will be set aside for proposals from historically underserved producers, veteran farmers or ranchers or groups serving these customers.

Webinar for Potential Applicants

  • Date:  Thursday, January 11, 2018
  • Time:  4:00 pm (eastern).
  • Log in:  At the time of the webinar, log in HERE.

To view the announcement, application materials, and submission procedures, go to:  www.grants.gov. For more information, read the news release. For questions, contact Laura Crowell of USDA at laura.crowell@ia.usda.gov or 515-323-2207.

Hypoxia Task Force 2017 Report to Congress Highlights Nutrient Reduction Progress

hypoxiaThe Hypoxia Task Force has released its 2017 Report to Congress on the actions the federal, state, and tribal members have taken toward the goal of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) and shrinking the size of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. This is the second biennial Report to Congress, after the first one in 2015. It was developed and released in accordance with the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments (HABHRCA) Act of 2014. The Reports to Congress describe the progress made through activities directed by the Hypoxia Task Force toward attainment of the goals of the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan 2008 to:

  • Target vulnerable lands and quantify nutrient load reductions achieved through federal programs, subject to future appropriations.
  • Implement state nutrient reduction strategies, including targeting vulnerable lands and quantifying nutrient reductions.
  • Expand and build new partnerships and alliances with universities, the agricultural community, cities, and others.
  • Track progress towards the interim target and long-term goal, with intent to understand whether the current actions are appropriate to meet the goal.

The report does include basic information about nutrient impacts on drinking water sources and treatment, as well as specific challenges and actions the MARB affiliated states are taking to address them. To view the report and learn more about the Hypoxia Task Force, visit EPA’s website.