Private-public partnerships foster land and water conservation in Trinity River Basinby Danielle Kalisek
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced on May 8 the launch of a new Water Quality Initiative dedicated to improving impaired waterways in Texas. NRCS will manage the initiative by making $2 million in financial assistance available to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in the Chambers Creek watershed. This stream is a Trinity River tributary, flowing into Richland-Chambers Reservoir, a water source for roughly 1.6 million people in Fort Worth and surrounding communities through the Tarrant Regional Water District.
Through this initiative, eligible producers in the Chambers Creek watershed in Ellis and Navarro counties will implement voluntary conservation practices to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities. Although not impaired at the present time, Chambers Creek has been impaired in the past and is still noted for undesirable levels of turbidity, siltation, dissolved oxygen and high nutrient levels. Some examples of voluntary conservation practices include cover crops, riparian buffers, cross fencing for rotational grazing, filter strips and terraces.
"The Chambers Creek watershed is the only watershed in Texas to receive funding from this national initiative, and the landowner organization Trinity Waters is proud to partner with NRCS," said Blake Alldredge, Texas AgriLife Extension Service associate who serves as the education and outreach coordinator for Trinity Waters.
"This is a great example of building cooperative partnerships to accomplish conservation goals as part of the overall Trinity River Basin Environmental Restoration Initiative," he said.
The Building Partnerships for Cooperative Conservation in the Trinity River Basin project is funded by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board through Clean Water Act §319(h) funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to advance the restoration and protection of water quality within the middle Trinity River basin through sound science, effective outreach and well-monitored ecological restoration. It is a partnership between the Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, Trinity Waters and AgriLife Extension.
Using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to producers for implementing conservation practices in watersheds with impairments where federal investments can make a difference in improving water quality.
"The benefits to landowners are tremendous as these practices will enhance the sustainability of their land by increasing infiltration of rainfall while reducing erosion," Alldredge said. "It's a win-win for landowners and society."
Gary and Sue Price, owners of the 77 Ranch in Navarro County and active members with Trinity Waters and the Texas Wildlife Association, hosted a media day on May 17 with NRCS and other partners to announce the initiative. "When you boil ranching down, it's all about water and grass," said Gary Price. "I can't make it rain, but there are things I can do to keep water on the land."
NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. All applications for funding consideration during this fiscal year must be received by June 15. This summer, NRCS will notify all applicants of the results and begin developing contracts with selected applicants.
Additional partners with NRCS' effort are the Tarrant Regional Water District, Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas AgriLife Extension Service as well as the Navarro and Ellis-Prairie Soil and Water Conservation Districts.