Iowa Watersheds Get $1.4 Million Of Federal Stimulus Money

Federal funding will be used for soil and water conservation projects in three critical watersheds.

Soil and water conservation is getting some of the money that's coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the economic stimulus legislation President Obama and Congress put into effect earlier this year.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced April 16 that a total of $84.8 million nationwide is going to a number of vital watershed projects, and includes 20 states. He says the money will be spent by state and local governments to improve water quality, decrease soil erosion and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural America.

These funds are issued through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service as part of the economic recovery legislation. USDA is directing the technical and financial assistance available through this funding toward projects that are ready to begin and that will relieve stress on local economies through creation of over 1,400 jobs.

Three watersheds in Iowa get funds

In Iowa, three watershed projects will receive this federal funding. Mill Creek in Page County in southwest Iowa, $57,500; Hacklebarney in Montgomery and Adams Counties in southwest Iowa, $161,000; and East Fork of The Grand River in Ringgold County in southwest Iowa, $1,258,250.

The total of $1,476,750 coming to these Iowa rural communities is for key projects that are ready to use the money, says Rich Sims, state conservationist for NRCS in Des Moines. "One criteria in selection was the readiness of these projects. We have partners such as local soil and water conservation districts that do a good job identifying priority projects for flood control, better water quality and soil conservation or a combination of these goals."

How will this money be used?

Sims says the federal cost-share money will go toward building flood retention structures and dams, and some will also be used to provide no-till and conservation tillage incentives, and some will be used to help farmers and landowners to install permanent practices such as grass waterways, terraces and filter strips.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Ag Committee and a senior member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, advocated strongly that Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention funding be included as part of the federal stimulus package spending plan.

Harkin says he made sure the Obama administration heard his message. "Watershed projects, which improve the quality and dependability of water sources, decrease soil erosion, prevent flooding and protect our natural resources, are vital to farmers and rural communities," says Harkin. "These funds come at a critical time and will help create new jobs in Iowa and improve our rural economy."

CSP program remains part of farm bill

Harkin has been a leading advocate for farm conservation programs. In the 2002 farm bill, he created the USDA's Conservation Security Program, which in the 2008 farm bill was renamed the Conservation Stewardship Program. It's still referred to as the CSP.

Also, the program still rewards farmers and ranchers who adopt and maintain sound environmental practices on working agricultural lands. In the 2008 farm bill, Harkin was able to include additional funding for such programs.

"The Iowa watershed projects announced for the $1.4 million in funding for Iowa will provide farmers, landowners and communities with needed assistance for installing planned systems of soil and water conservation practices to slow water runoff and reduce erosion damage to agricultural land and public infrastructure such as roads and bridges," says Harkin. "Additionally, the projects will reduce flood damage, gully erosion damage and stream channel degradation and will improve water quality within rural watersheds."

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