Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Local Success


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Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Local Success

  1. 1. Our Land, Our Water Case studies in LoCaL suCCesses A National Association ofConservation Districts Special Report
  2. 2. Table of ContentsTable of Contents Acknowledgementacknowledgement ........................................................................................ 1 This report from the Nationalspecial thanks............................................................................................... 1 Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) was made possible bynon-discrimination ....................................................................................... 1 funding assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservationexecutive summary....................................................................................... 2 Service.alabama ........................................................................................................ 3 The views and conclusions contained in this document arealaska ............................................................................................................ 5 those of the authors and shouldCalifornia & nevada ...................................................................................... 7 not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S.Colorado ....................................................................................................... 9 government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does notGeorgia ....................................................................................................... 11 constitute their endorsement by theHawaii .......................................................................................................... 13 U.S. government or NACD.indiana ......................................................................................................... 15 Special ThanksKansas ......................................................................................................... 17 America’s conservation districts and their partners were primaryKentucky ..................................................................................................... 19 sources of information for this report.Louisiana ..................................................................................................... 21 We thank them for their time, talent and energy in helping to provideMaine........................................................................................................... 23 information.Michigan ...................................................................................................... 25 Non-DiscriminationMinnesota ................................................................................................... 27 All activities pursuant to thisMississippi ................................................................................................... 29 agreement shall be in compliance with the requirements of ExecutiveMontana ...................................................................................................... 31 Order 11246; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (78 Stat. 252; 42nebraska ..................................................................................................... 33 U.S.C. 200(d) et seq.); Title V, Sectionnevada ........................................................................................................ 35 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (87 Stat. 394; 29 U.S.C. 794),new Jersey ................................................................................................. 37 as amended by the Americans Withnew Hampshire .......................................................................................... 39 Disabilities Act; the Age Discrimina- tion Act of 1975 (89 Stat. 728; 42ohio............................................................................................................. 41 U.S.C. 6101 et seq.); and with all other federal laws and regulationsoklahoma .................................................................................................... 43 prohibiting discrimination on groundsoregon ........................................................................................................ 45 of race, color, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, religion,south dakota .............................................................................................. 47 age or sex.Virginia ........................................................................................................ 49Wyoming ..................................................................................................... 51Partners in Watershed and Landscape Work ............................................. 531 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  3. 3. Executive SummaryExecutive Summary25 case studies, hundreds of partnersW elcome to this report scape for different of watershed-scale plans. These, in turn, focusing on 25 inspiring needs, the task of support watershed planning tools made case studies of conservation- reaching consensus available by several sources.minded citizens addressing resource on actions can be Just as it is possible to make wiseconcerns on a watershed or community difficult. Here we decisions about watershed sustainabilityscale. The report is national in scope but are happy to show it through the use of these tools, it is alsoit focuses on local strategies to address can be done. more possible at the watershed scale tolocal and regional conservation chal- Time and again, monitor and assess the impacts of coor-lenges. the voices here dinated activities. Virtually every effort The recognized need for watershed- report that when described in this report includes moni-scale conservation approaches is hardly stakeholders become partners, they toring and assessment for accountability.new, but the reality of accomplishing the realize a simple fact: “This is our water- Conservation districts and other localtask remains elusive. That is why these shed. We are all part of the problem and partners have long worked for the wisecase studies are refreshing: The people the solution.” use, conservation and protection of ourhere are achieving success. Conserva- We present this report both as a specific land and water. Frequently this has beention districts and a remarkable array of reference for local, state and federal part- at the county level. The watershed- andpartners come together to assess and ners and policy-makers and as a tool for community-scale approach has helpedplan coordinated responses to concerns grass-roots, locally led efforts to replicate local conservation leaders to see biggeracross many miles and jurisdictions. Yes, and build on what our peers are doing possibilities. Watersheds don’t know juris-they have more work to do, but that is the across America. The message here is that dictional boundaries, so working acrossnature of our job. It is ongoing. federal programs and state leadership watersheds and landscapes requires The challenges of conservation at this that provide support for and encourage multi-jurisdictional and multi-facetedscale are many. There are multiple stake- watershed assessments and planning are partnering.holders and jurisdictions. America’s land working. But everything clicks when local Case studies here touch on rural,and water have and continue to serve partners are at the heart of identifying urban, near-wilderness and various mixeda multitude of functions in the private and solving local and regional conser- land uses that impact watersheds andsector, and these systems have frequently vation issues and developing plans to landscapes. They focus on projects atbeen altered greatly over time. The job address them. differing stages of development. Eachof protecting them today is often neces- An important message for local part- case study varies by its own local circum-sarily pragmatic: dealing with what we ners is that program resources can be stances, but common threads run throughhave been handed in the best ways we stretched a long way when partnerships many. Understanding that everyone isare able. Public watersheds and lands are are broad. Traditional public resources part of the solution is one such thread.also vexed by many challenges – forest are mingled with those from a growing list The power of partnership and coopera-and range management, fire, noxious of private groups and entities, including tion is another. A list of the many partnersweeds and others. The places where market-based conservation approaches. who support these projects fills the lastpublic and private lands meet offer their We learn in this report that the tools page of this report.own sets of challenges, including coordi- available in today’s conservation world Contacts and sources of more informa-nating conservation across jurisdictions make all of our jobs a lot easier. GIS and tion are listed with each case study. Thisat the landscape scale. Frequently, land GPS technologies have given us layers report is necessarily limited to 25 caseuse changes such as sprawl and loss of of local, state and national information studies. There are many more stories toopen space have added new elements to we could not have imagined available tell out there, and we hope this reportthe mix. just a few years ago. This information opens the door to ongoing community- Virtually every case study here high- often serves as a starting point for plan wide attention on “our land, our water.”lights a growing understanding that a development by providing baseline data.watershed is comprised of many stake- Real-time soil monitoring, NRCS on-line Krysta Hardenholder communities. Especially where digital state soil surveys and other tech- NACD Chief Executive Officermany groups rely on a watershed or land- nologies help guide the development September, 2008 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 2
  4. 4. AlabamaBuilding a betterwatershed assessment toolStatewide watershed assessments that incorporate local conservationpriorities are valuable tools for identifying local conservation needs, openingdoors to funding opportunities and developing new partnerships.A lAbAmA’S recently comp- Management that funded the state- The state assessment information will leted statewide watershed wide effort to update and vastly expand be shared widely on an innovative web- assessment incorporated input an assessment last completed in 1999. based database that provides an array offrom every county in the state, thanks in “Almost everything was done at the local information on activities that impact landno small part to the work of soil and water level,” says Norris. and water resources in the state’s water-conservation districts. What emerged is “Local districts held public meetings sheds.a much clearer understanding of water in every county. They ran advertisements It will also serve as a tool for obtainingquality concerns, changing land use in newspapers to publicize the meet- funding to address local priorities. “Every-patterns, wildlife concentrations and a ings. Some had up to 100 people at their thing now is geared toward watersheds.whole lot more. meetings, including state senators and Funding from the national and state level The state’s 67 SWCDs – one for each representatives.” is targeted that way,” Norris says. “Localcounty – collected data, garnered public The local meetings were held so that SWCDs set those priorities. There’s neverinput and set local priorities, says J.O. participants could review data and iden- enough money to go around, but youNorris, water quality coordinator with the tify and prioritize local conservation can target the needs.”Alabama State Soil and Water Conser- needs. Each district was asked to develop In several counties, animal waste is thevation Committee. District costs were watershed plans based on priorities iden- top priority. Alabama is home to dozenscovered as part of a grant from the tified at the public meetings. of poultry operations. While high price ofAlabama Department of Environmental fertilizer has put poultry litter in demand, runoff remains an issue. Erosion continues to be a concern in counties with high-intensity cropping, “Local districts held public meetings in every but the assessment showed that it may county. they ran advertisements in newspa- be abating because conservation tillage has supplanted conventional methods on pers to publicize the meetings. Some had up to many farms. Ten years ago, conventional 100 people at their meetings, including state tillage was practiced on the majority of state farms. The new assessment shows senators and representatives.” that the majority of farms have shifted to J.O. Norris conservation tillage. water quality coordinator The assessment also turned up some surprises. “By far the biggest problem Alabama State Soil and Water Conservation Committee from erosion is going to be dirt roads,”3 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  5. 5. Alabama soil and water conservation districts held public meetings in every county to allow participants to review watershed data and prioritize local con-servation needs. Each district was asked to develop watershed plans based on priorities identified at the public meetings.Norris says. One county figured itsproblem with animal wastes was fromlivestock. Data collection showed that “We have counties in alabama that need thisdeer were the main cause of wastes in its assessment done every three to five years withwaterways. With growing interest in land manage- all the construction, building and land usement for hunting, the assessment alsofocused on wildlife populations, food changes that are occurring.”sources and habitat. “You can look at theassessment, and it will say that in some use changes that are occurring,” he says. somebody the other day, you can look atcounties, deer are overpopulated.” Other regions have seen little change the inventory and get the total number of Land use trends can be tracked and will likely continue that way. “It was golf courses in Alabama,” Norris says.with the new tool, which can be easily forested 10 years ago and it will be 10updated. Some parts of the state have years from now.” More information: Contact Norrisseen rapid growth since the last assess- Soil types, forested resources, mining at james.norris@swcc.alabama.gov.ment was completed. “We have coun- land, septic systems, cultural resources The web-based inventory was in finalties in Alabama that need this assess- and other categories are available on stages of completion at press time. Itment done every three to five years with spread sheets and maps. “Like I told will be posted at www.swcc.state.al.us/all the construction, building and land Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 4
  6. 6. AlaskaHomer SWCd educates aboutdevelopment’s impactThe Homer Soil and Water Conservation District’s suitability maps showwhere development is likely to affect conservation features of the land. Thenext step is to encourage low-impact development techniques to protectvaluable natural functions and larger landscape systems.P eRCheD on the southwest edge says District Manager Tara Schmidt. Suitability for developable lands is of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, The project is funded by the U.S. Envi- based on physical landscape features the city of Homer has seen rapid ronmental Protection Agency Wetlands affecting cost of construction, such asgrowth in recent years. Many people Protection Development Grant and a U.S. drainage, topography, and soil types,choose the area for natural attributes like Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Coastal along with amenities such as view,viewscapes, wildlife and open spaces. Communities Grant. proximity to trails and parklands. Prime To help preserve those attributes, the A technical advisory committee for the conservation lands focus on factors thatHomer Soil and Water Conservation project features broad representation, include hydrologic functions, wildlifeDistrict has developed suitability maps including excavators, contractors, real habitat corridors, trail connectivity andthat pinpoint lands likely to be developed estate agents, surveyors, biologists, soil aesthetic qualities.and those with high conservation value. scientists and wetlands scientists. The When the GIS maps are overlapped,It will introduce low-impact development city of Homer has cooperated in several areas where development is likely totechniques and establish a developer’s ways, including providing technical assis- meet prime conservation lands are high-certification program to meet develop- tance. lighted. That serves as a tool for wise landment needs and preserve natural attri- In phase one of the project, the district use planning. The project was under waybutes. worked with DnA Design of Homer to just as the city of Homer’s comprehensive “This is really an attempt to look at develop Geographic Information System- plan was up for review. The suitabilitylarger systems rather than individual based landscape systems maps for the maps served as the basis for a green infra-lots. It’s incentive-based and meant to city and an important watershed that structure map that was adopted into themotivate landowners and developers serves as its source of drinking water. revised comprehensive plan as a guideto develop with a stewardship ethic,” for future decision-making. Much of the new development in and around Homer has occurred on steep slopes. “We have topography that is “this is really an attempt to look at larger a challenge,” Schmidt says. “We’re systems rather than individual lots. It’s incen- trying to understand how uplands are connected to wetlands across the whole tive-based and meant to motivate landowners system to guide development.” and developers to develop with a stewardship The suitability maps were introduced to the public at workshops in May 2008. ethic.” Also introduced at the workshops was a Tara Schmidt Best Stewardship Practices Booklet high- Homer Soil and Water Conservation District Manager lighting various low-impact development (LIDs) techniques and their values. About5 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  7. 7. Suitability mapping by the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District identifies natural resources characteristics such as moose habitat.80 people attended over three days. “It’s that respect and take advantage of green are intended to reduce developmentimportant that people hear from the start infrastructure functions and larger land- costs and other costs that are ultimatelythat we’re not trying to limit develop- scape systems. Benefits may include borne by taxpayers when municipalitiesment. We’re acknowledging these prop- reduced construction costs, increased have to replace degraded natural func-erties have high value and will be devel- real estate values, accelerated apprecia- tions with structural solutions, such asoped, but let’s try to motivate landowners tion, and/or avoidance of certain regula- storm water drains and retaining walls.to develop with an understanding that tory requirements. In addition to instilling better under-they are part of larger systems,” Schmidt Active incentives provide economic standing of landscape impacts in thesays. or procedural “payments” to reimburse Homer area, Schmidt says the project can A curriculum for the developer’s certi- property owners for developing property serve as a model for other communitiesfication program is being finalized during in ways that protect green infrastructure seeking to better understand green infra-phase two of the project. The program functions and larger landscape systems. structure functions and larger landscapewill help individuals learn to use GIS tools These could include expedited permit- systems as they guide development.to integrate landscape systems into proj- ting, low-interest loans, tax benefits orects. Developers who complete one or cash payments. The district is investi- More information: Contact Taramore workshops would qualify for green gating low-interest rate loans that would Schmidt at tara@homerswcd.org.certification for projects. be available to qualifying development Information on the project is at www. Both passive and active incentives have projects. suitabilitymap.org/.been identified to encourage landowners Low impact development (LID) tech-and developers to apply voluntary best niques have also been identified with themanagement practices. Passive incen- focus on protecting valuable natural func-tives include construction techniques tions and larger landscape systems. LIDs Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 6
  8. 8. California & NevadaCooperating acrossstate lines to protect tahoeBackyard conservation can have far-reaching effects, as homeowners in twostates of the Lake Tahoe Basin learn from cooperating conservation districts.C ooPeRAtioN across state Natural Resources Conservation Service “We cooperate extensively,” says lines between two conserva- offers guidance on protocols for effec- Brand. A memorandum of understanding tion districts is helping residents tiveness studies the districts conduct on paves the way for districts to work acrossin the Lake Tahoe basin protect one of recommended practices. state boundaries. They also share servicesAmerica’s best-known water bodies. While at least half of the residen- on some projects. Invasive weeds are a Lodged in the Sierra Nevada Moun- tial properties in the basin are in need concern in the region, and the Nevada-tains, Lake Tahoe was developed rapidly of attention, there has been progress. Tahoe District uses the services of theand not always wisely in the mid-20th “We feel the program has made a lot of Tahoe RCD’s invasive weeds coordi-century. With multiple jurisdictions in the headway, and we’ve been able to help nator. The districts also partner withbasin, including two states, cooperation homeowners and assist with lake clarity,” NRCS, Cooperative Extension, the Tahoeis the key to making conservation gains. says Jason Brand, program manager in Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), state The Tahoe Resource Conservation the Nevada-Tahoe District. But there’s agencies and local communities.District in California and the Nevada still plenty of work to be done. Some Swain’s program has a staff of 10, plusTahoe Conservation District in Nevada communities in the basin have aggres- two or three seasonal employees. Brandhave the daunting task of helping about sively worked toward compliance; others has a staff of five. Both districts provide40,000 residential property owners in haven’t moved as quickly. “There’s a huge free site visits to residential properties.the basin comply with mandated best need for BMPs,” says Brand. Conservation plans for private parcelsmanagement practices (BMP). Their work His counterpart at the Tahoe Resource include recommendations for runoffis part of a broader strategy to reduce Conservation District says it’s important management and storm-water treat-sediment and nutrient impacts on water that the two districts provide consistent ment, slope stabilization, soil protection,quality in Lake Tahoe and improve overall information. “We try and be on the same noxious weed removal, revegetation withforest resource management. page as to materials and messages we native and adapted plants, water and The districts make regular use of the provide to homeowners,” says Eben fertilizer management, pest manage-national Backyard Conservation Program Swain, BMP coordinator. “If you get a site ment, wildlife habitat improvement,to provide private landowners conserva- evaluation on the Nevada or California forest management and reduction of firetion education, technical assistance, and side, it should be the same.” hazards. Swain’s program this year offerswhole-parcel conservation plans. The trees, ground cover and other vegetation free to cooperating homeowners, using proceeds from a state grant. The work “We feel the program has made a lot of headway, helps landowners comply with local ordi- nances and basin-wide water quality stra- and we’ve been able to help homeowners and tegic plans, some of them mandated by assist with lake clarity.” the TRPA. The districts certify compliance for homeowners. Jason Brand, BMP work is complicated by wildfire Program Manager, Nevada-Tahoe District risks in the heavily forested region. The Angora Fire last year destroyed more7 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  9. 9. An armored drip line installed around a home in the Lake Tahoe Basin captures rainfall and keeps it on site, reducing runoff from the residential property.than 250 homes. The districts are workingto make sure their conservation goals areconsistent with defensible-space require- “We’re set up to deal with local issues, and inments for homes. This includes testing this area, one of the main issues is BMPs.”BMPs like mulch for fire-resistance. Outreach activities drive both programs. Eben Swain,The Tahoe RCD reaches out to close to BMP coordinator, California Tahoe District2,000 homeowners a year in a variety ofways, including workshops, conservation ters the funds for district programs. Both are working on a local issue that makes ablock parties, person-to-person contacts, districts also receive state funding for difference for a national treasure.phone calls, site visits and other contacts. BMP work.In Nevada, the program is promoted The work is clearly identified by both More information: Contact Jasonthrough a community watershed plan- districts as a local and regional priority. Brand at jbrand@ntcd.org and Ebenning process in individual communities. “We’re set up to deal with local issues, Swain at tahoercd@yahoo.com. MoreWorkshops, demonstration sites, educa- and in this area, one of the main issues is on the Tahoe RCD program is at www.tional publications and on-site visits with BMPs,” says Swain. tahoercd.org. More on the Nevadahomeowners are used. With studies showing that urban Tahoe CD program is at www.ntcd. The work is costly, and both districts upland areas in the basin are some of the org.rely on grants. A main source for both is biggest contributors to nutrient and sedi-funding from the Southern Nevada Public ment loading in Lake Tahoe, the districtsLand Management Act. NRCS adminis- Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 8
  10. 10. ColoradoInnovation helps producersin water-challenged regionThe Yuma Conservation District works with producers acrossthe Republican River Basin to reduce water use, introducefarming alternatives and save rural communities.m ARk tWAiN said, “Whis- key’s for drinking, water’s for fighting.” In a 21st century twist, the YumaConservation District’s Republican RiverBasin Pathways Project in eastern Colo-rado is working to give producers andrural communities a fighting chance. Irrigated agriculture in the basin pullswater from the Ogallala Aquifer, anovertaxed but critically important watersource that stretches across the GreatPlains from Texas to South Dakota. Colo-rado producers do not now face waterallocations, and by helping them reducewater demand and consider alternatives,the district is working to keep agricultureand the communities it supports sustain-able. Goals include growing traditional cropslike corn and sugar beets using less waterand encouraging producers to experi- Mist irrigation systems help Republic River producers to limit water use while providing for crop needs. The Yuma Conservation District promotes best-management practices and other solutions toment with lower-water-use crops such water quantity concerns in the region.as grass-fed beef, onions and peas, saysProject Coordinator Brian Starkebaum. local work groups consistently focused culture and spin-off businesses pumpHe is also a producer and conservation on water as a major local resource $420 million annually into the county’sdistrict board member in nearby Haxton concern. Starkebaum credits the state economy. “If we lose this irrigation, that’sCounty. Natural Resources Conservation Service all there is. Our towns die,” he says. The Yuma District set out on a proac- for stressing the importance of local work The district and NRCS developed irri-tive course thanks to an Environmental groups and responding to their findings. gation water management plans, and theProtection Agency 319 grant that focused “Our local work groups identified district then applied for an NRCS Conser-on water quality. The grant showed that water quality and quantity every year,” he vation Innovation Grant. It was awardedthe majority of the 250 producers who says. “We understand that in our region, one of six such grants nationally in 2005.participated were doing a good job this form of agriculture is so vital to our That helped the district face the coun-keeping nitrates out of the aquifer. Still, economy.” Estimates show that agri- ty’s water issues head-on. “My personal9 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  11. 11. “We understand that in our region, this form of agri- culture is so vital to our economy.” Brian Starkebaum Project Coordinator Yuma Districtbelief is conservation districts are facilita-tors of information, and that’s what we’redoing,” Starkebaum says. Efforts to interest producers in alter-native crops such as canola had somesuccess, but with high prices for tradi-tional crops, interest has backed offsome. “So we refocused and decided towork with producers growing traditionalcrops but using less water. We tried tobuild awareness, and we’re coming tofind out it is very possible to reduce irri-gation consumption and not lose return,”Starkebaum says. He has the facts toprove it, too. A big part of his job is togather data and success stories that willbe shared on an innovative database incooperation with the USDA’s Agricultural Producers and researchers gather around a soil pit to gather information from a root-zone study con-Research Service in Fort Collins. One ducted by an NRCS soil scientist in the Republican River Basin. The study helps producers see how cropfinding: Pilot farm producers have cut roots are developing in the soil and to monitor results from nutrient and water planning.water use by half without any production Fund grant helped support efforts to “We’re at the end of the line with whatlosses. build a team of local experts to deter- we can do with traditional practices. The project also focuses on familiar- mine interest in developing a local foods What we have to address now is manage-izing producers with value-added vege- cooperative. The project is under way ment. That’s where the big leaps are.table crops and marketing opportunities and includes public programs sharing Producers are definitely better managingsuch as the flourishing local foods move- information with producers. the resources they have.”ment. A state of Colorado NRCS Conserva- Starkebaum put together a whole farm tion Innovation Grant facilitated the part- More information: Contact Brianplanning notebook based on a similar nership with ARS for the online database. Starkebaum at brian-starkebaum@tool developed by NRCS in Minnesota. It will include a range of information on yumaconservation.org. More on“A lot of the guys I’m working with water use, crop economics, production, the Republican River project on thealready know this, but we did find that a research and stories about producers district’s web site at www.yumaconser-lot of them didn’t know about marketing who’ve made the transition to lower vation.org.opportunities, especially value-added,” water demand. “ARS bought the concepthe says. immediately,” he says. It may be adapted As the project matures, more options for use across the country.have opened up. A Laura Jane Musser Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 10
  12. 12. Georgia Photo © The Nature Conservancy/Mark GodfreyReal-time soil moisture monitoring on irrigation rigs relies on broadband telemetry and wireless Internet to link rigs in the fieldto computers in farm offices.Groups combine conservationand rural developmentThe Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy,NRCS and other partners achieve important water conservation gains and boostrural communities with innovative technology.i mAgiNe a project that addresses efficient irrigation and water use, and pivot irrigation systems water about a major conservation problem and rural residents will soon have access to 500,000 acres, straining already limited fosters rural development. That’s wireless Internet service. ground and surface water resources inwhat supervisors in the Flint River Soil The Flint District and NRCS have the basin and challenging the region’sand Water Conservation District did, and applied innovative technology and ability to sustain crop yields without sacri-the results are impressive. ongoing education to help producers ficing biodiversity. Recent drought years In southwest Georgia, the Flint District be good stewards of water resources have intensified concerns, and farmersis joined by the Natural Resources Conser- for years. It’s important work. The lower are constantly juggling crop needs withvation Service, The Nature Conservancy, portion of the Flint River basin in south- water conservation efforts. The districtthe University of Georgia, the Georgia west Georgia is one of the most agricul- and its partners have supported effortsAgriculture Innovation Center and other turally intensive areas in the southeast. that have conserved more than 10 billionpartners in the project. Thanks to their Producers grow peanuts, cotton, corn gallons of water. That savings equateswork, farmers have important tools for and soybean. More than 5,000 center11 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  13. 13. to the annual water use of more than250,000 people. Photo © The Nature Conservancy/Mark Godfrey Real-time soil moisture monitoring hasbeen introduced to meet irrigation needsand protect water resources. The districtand its partners are now pioneering tech-nology that uses broadband telemetryand wireless Internet to link irrigation rigsto computers in farm offices. With a corenetwork in place, the partners are nowtaking steps to expand wireless Internetservice to other rural areas in Baker,Calhoun, Early, Miller and Mitchell coun-ties. In 2004, the district and partners initi- Georgia’s agriculture and water resources exist side-by-side in the Flint River Basin.ated a Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) pilotproject to deploy 22 VRI systems on The Nature Conservancy is involved for partnering with TNC, he says: “Fourfarms. The systems map crop acres and because it is interested promoting sustain- years ago, I never would have thought wedefine irrigation patterns by soil type, able farming practices and protecting would be involved with an environmentalslope and hydrology. Non-crop areas are the biodiversity of the ecologically rich organization, but it has worked beauti-removed from irrigation, and other areas lower Flint River basin, part of the Apala- fully. We agreed to go into relationshipreceive irrigation equal to their needs. chicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. with open minds and see where we could To more effectively manage VRI, the This is the main source of drinking water work together and quit butting heads.”district in 2005 set up a 100-square-mile for southwest Georgia and north Florida. Innovation has been rewarded withwireless broadband telemetry network in David Reckford, project director, is a funding, including a U.S. DepartmentCalhoun County. The network provided Nature Conservancy employee with half of Agriculture Conservation Innovationwireless connectivity to 17 center pivot of his salary paid by the district and his Grant for remote soil moisture moni-irrigation systems covering 2,467 crop equipment and office space provided by toring equipment and an Environmentalacres. Participating farmers were provided NRCS. He credits district supervisors with Protection Agency Strategic Agriculturalwith Internet access, allowing them to providing the leadership to embrace the Initiative grant to develop a conserva-monitor center pivot activity via cameras new techniques. “Oftentimes you may tion-based crop rotation practice. Themounted to each boom and schedule have a good concept in an educational five-county broadband expansion projectirrigation based on “near real time” soil institution, but you need to put it on a was funded by a $2.7 million grant frommoisture readings recorded by wireless working farm. Almost every technology the OneGeorgia Authority’s BRIDGEsensors in their fields. we have now was put on the farms of (Broadband Rural Initiative to Develop Internet connectivity is sometimes these district supervisors.” Georgia’s Economy) program and a $1lacking in rural America, which can inhibit One of those supervisors is board million match from the Flint River Soil andcommunity and economic development. Chair Marty McLendon, who farms 8,000 Water Conservation District. Each countyTo expand coverage, the district and acres. “We wanted to show our willing- is contributing $10,000, as well as timepartners are assisting in the deployment ness to partner with different agencies and resources to the project.of a five-county rural wireless broadband and research and development institu-network. When completed, the network tions on cutting-edge practices. It helps More information: Contact Martywill serve area schools, hospitals, first researchers and helps makes it economi- McLendon, chairman of the Flint Riverresponders, businesses and residences cally feasible for others. We put the prac- Soil and Water Conservation Districtin addition to farm operations. Goals tices into the real world,” McLendon says. at mai@mclendonacres.com or Davidinclude advancing the development of He’s sold on the value of partnerships to Reckford, director of the Flint Rivereducation, health, safety and communi- achieve conservation successes. “My Basin Program at dreckford@tnc.org.cation resources in the coverage area. only advice is there are extremely good Learn more about the South GeorgiaThe network will also provide opportuni- farmers and extremely good partners, Regional Information Technologyties to expand research and development and if you truly want to do something Authority at www.sgrita.org.of new agricultural technology. and be involved, you can do that.” As Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 12
  14. 14. HawaiiCommunity members and service men and women from the Pohakuloa Training Area gather for a photo after a volunteer stream cleanup day. The MaunaKea Soil and Water Conservation Disrict makes regular use of volunteer assistance in its watershed protection efforts.Special attention for Big Island watershedsWatersheds on the Big Island of Hawaii cascade from mountaintop to coral beds in the PacificOcean. The health of these watersheds and associated landscapes affects the well-being of lifeall along the way. Repairing damaged watersheds and protecting healthy ones are goals of theMauna Kea Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and other districts on the island.W AteRSheDS on Hawaii’s watersheds are increasingly asked to shed protection and rehabilitation. The Big Island present challenges meet the needs of growing human popu- district encompasses 1,141 square miles that conservation districts lations. on northern reaches of the island.elsewhere in America don’t face. Water All of this heightens the importance of Two watersheds are receiving atten-flows through multiple climatic zones work by conservation-minded citizens on tion from the district, its partners andand altered landscapes such as those the Big Island. Conservation districts like volunteers, says John Pipan, conserva-heavily grazed and sometimes overrun the Mauna Kea SWCD are charged with tion specialist. The Waiulaula Water-by invasive plant species. The sediments helping to implement the state’s polluted shed benefits from generally good waterthey carry empty into the Pacific Ocean runoff control program. To accomplish quality. Here, work is proactive. The Pele-and across fragile coral reefs. These same that, the district works on both water- kane Watershed is another matter. It is13 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  15. 15. challenged by multiple resource issues,and restoring watershed health is thefocus for Pelekane. In both cases, volunteers and commu-nity partners have a big role in theefforts. A first step for Waiulaula (pronouncedWY ULA ULA) is a comprehensive moni-toring program. Water sampling stationsrecently put in place capture data from theforested upper section, then below thetown of Waimea and finally at the mouthof the watershed. Storms cause most ofthe flux in the watershed, so monitoringwill capture where nutrients, sediment,chemicals and suspended solids enter. “Ifwe can pick out areas with problems, wecan be proactive to address them” withappropriate best-management practices,Pipan says. Waimea Middle School students learn about nonpoint pollution through the use of a watershed model Geographic Information Systems soft- provided as part of a watershed education program sponsored by the Mauna Kea Soil and Waterware will compare land cover and runoff Conservation District.sources from the three different land use women from the Department of Defense the watershed will have to be re-vege-areas. Data will be presented in a docu- Pohakuloa Training Area donate their tated,” Pipan says. “It’s dry, so not muchment that makes recommendations to time, as do volunteers from Starbucks grows there, period. We have problemsthe county in its zoning and community and Outdoors Circles comprised of with feral goats, and some of the vege-development decisions. It’s important community members interested in green tation is grazed by cattle. We’ll need ainformation in a watershed where popu- space. combination of native and introducedlation has grown dramatically and where The district reaches out to elemen- vegetation.” They’ll also need to trapcommunities like Waimea and its 7,000 tary school students about the impor- and remove the goats.residents rely on watershed reservoirs for tance and fragile nature of watersheds. Cleaning up Pelekane Bay will bedrinking water. A portable watershed model is used to more challenging. Ancient cultural attri- A Waiulaula Watershed Advisory Group simulate what happens in nature. butes such as the Hill of the Whale stoneprovides important community input, Hawaii’s landscapes are challenged by worship site in the bay may precludehelps educate residents on water quality an array of introduced plant and animal dredging. Other options includeissues, identifies pollution and will help visitors that have become persistent resi- increasing the flushing capacity of harbordevelop a watershed management plan. dents. Invasive plant species frequently and constructing sediment basins.Monitoring by community members and supplant natives. Even when farming Pelekane’s problems are difficult, butstudents provides educational opportu- practices address concerns about they helped district officials and othernities and community buy-in. The district grazing, feral goats and cattle roam many partners to see the value of protectinghas also involved volunteers in other hillsides, stripping them bare. watersheds like Waiulaula before theyefforts to address water quality. They These and other factors challenge become impaired.have worked on inventories and inva- watersheds like Pelekane. It lies in thesive species eradication, often in difficult rain shadow of Kohala Mountain, so it More information: Contact Johnterrains dominated by rough lava flows. is dry much of the year. Parts of water- Pipan at john.pipan@hi.nacdnet.Students from the Cornell University shed are completely bare earth, so when net. Learn more about the watershedField Program in Earth Systems Science rain does fall, Pelekane Bay in the ocean programs at www.maunakeaswcd.org.have been engaged for that work. is recipient of sediment loads. It’s now Community watershed clean-ups link considered seriously impaired.people to their watersheds. In addition ”We’ve evaluated strategies for miti-to community members, service men and gating sediment, and the bottom line is Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 14
  16. 16. IndianaPervious pavement at the city of Elkhart Environmental Center increases on-site storm water infiltration. It is among many practices recommended by theElkhart River Alliance.rural and urban folksjoin to fix their watershedA small group of concerned citizens grew to a broad coalition of partners determinedto improve the health of the Elkhart River watershed. The Elkhart County Soil andWater Conservation District has been at the forefront of the effort.W heN a neighborhood asso- ment (DEM), the group set out to do The district contacted a watershed ciation raised concerns something about the problem. specialist with the Indiana DEM. “We about sediment in a pond in “The pond was a sediment trap and met with the association and presentednorthern Indiana, it ignited a discussion was full of purple loosestrife,” says Nancy a plan for assistance for watershed plan-across a whole watershed. Brown, program manager at the conser- ning,” says Brown. “Their group said they Residents around Goshen Pond Dam vation district. “They asked whether were totally in agreement and formed alearned that the sediment was a symptom there was anything we could do. I felt the steering committee called Elkhart Riverof a much larger problem in the 447,000- best way to get funding was to address Alliance.”acre Elkhart River Watershed. With the how the sediment got there, and said “That original homeowners associationhelp of the Elkhart County Soil and we would do that and look at related took on this big project. I am amazed atWater Conservation District and the state issues.” the ability of a small neighborhood groupDepartment of Environmental Manage- to adopt a whole watershed. Even though15 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  17. 17. their original interest was their neighbor-hood, they saw a need to address water-shed issues on a watershed basis,” Brownsays. Soon the group formed a nonprofitcorporation, the Elkhart River RestorationAssociation, and began to reach out tointerested parties across the watershed.It found plenty, including local and stategovernment, sportsmen’s group, conser-vation districts, Extension, propertyowners, farmers, sportsmen, naturalists,youth organizations, service clubs, indus-tries and churches. The watershed stretches across fourcounties and is a half-and-half mixtureof rural and rapidly growing urban areas.The district had good contacts in both Bioretention areas are among practices recommended by the Elkhart River Alliance in its efforts tosectors because of its program work in restore health to the Elkhart River Watershed. The Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation Districtrural and urban conservation. “We can is joined by other partners in the effort.say we work with both of you. Whenfingers are pointed, quite honestly, we worked with a group with such passion,” funded by state and federal programcan say we hear the opposite side from says Brown. dollars.the other group,” Brown says. The management plan outlines a set of Two demonstration sites are being Assisted by an Environmental Protec- goals, each accompanied by objectives developed – one urban and one agri-tion Agency 319 grant obtained through for implementation. The plan prioritizes cultural. The urban site is the city ofthe DEM in 2006, the group embarked objectives and action items and identifies Elkhart’s Environmental Center, whereon a year of planning and two years of responsible parties to implement actions. conservation district staff has installed aimplementation. The work is daunting, The plan has milestones and measurable rain garden, pervious pavement and abecause the watershed is in rough shape. goals for short- medium- and long-term. bio-retention area in a parking lot. TheMost sections of the river – in both rural agricultural demonstration site focusesand urban areas – are impaired waters. Goals include: on exclusion fencing and alternativeIn addition to excessive sediment, it has watering for livestock. Both sites will beproblems with E. coli bacteria, nutrient • Sustaining the financial and institu- showcases for educational programming.loading, rapid land-use changes that tional capacity of the group itself; “I like to tell the staff we’re doing thedegrade the watershed’s hydrology, loss • Reducing soil erosion and sedi- same things at both sites. The practicesof wetlands and wildlife habitat, and land mentation; are just a little different,” says Brown.and water user conflicts. • Reducing E. coli levels; The district is also training a cadre “We’re not protecting something pris- • Reducing nutrient loading; of volunteers for water monitoring intine. We’re trying to fix something that’s • Increasing preservation, restora- each of the Elkhart’s 37 sub-watersheds.broken,” says Brown. tion and appreciation of open “We’re a district, and this is what districts Perhaps the group’s biggest accom- space and maintaining land-use do – educate.”plishment was to get diverse groups and balance; andindividuals in the watershed to realize • Developing an outreach and More information: Contact Brown atthey all played a part in its problems, just education program to keep a nancy.brown@in.nacdnet.net. Detailsas they would all have a role in nursing it broadened group of stakeholders on the ERA and the implementationback to health. involved and informed. plan are at www.elkhartriveralliance. A Water Management Plan is now org.in place to do that. Ongoing funding is Work is already under-way. Cost-sharean issue, but if determination counts, programs support agricultural and urbanthe group is in good stead. “I’ve never best management practices. They are Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 16
  18. 18. Kansasa big watershed benefitsfrom local frugalityThe Franklin County Conservation District and its partners stretch limitedfunds a long way to address rural water quality issues across 13 counties.t he Marais des Cygnes River (MdC) Watershed covers 13 rural counties in eastern Kansasbefore crossing into Missouri. Addressingrural water quality issues over an area thatsize requires cooperation, creativity andold-fashioned rural frugality. The Franklin County ConservationDistrict and its partners have appliedthose measures and good communi-cation to help agricultural producersaddress nonpoint pollution concerns andupgrade their farm systems. Kansas uses the Watershed Restora-tion and Protection Strategy, or WRAPS,process to meet federal and state waterstandards. WRAPS involves local citizensin identifying water quality and waterquantity issues within their watershed.With guidance and technical assistance,citizens then develop and implement a Old implement tires become innovative and inexpensive alternative watering systems for producersplan. in the Marais des Cygnes River Watershed in Kansas. The Franklin County Conservation District and The MdC WRAPS was sponsored by partners are addressing rural water issues across the multi-county watershed.the Lake Region Resource Conservationand Development Council in partnership and working with producers. Three The RC&D received an Environmentalwith the Kansas Department of Health federal reservoirs in the watershed are Protection Agency grant through KDHEand Environment (KDHE). Five public recipients of sediment and pollutants for a riparian forestry initiative. It usedmeetings were held around the basin, from nonpoint sources. The reservoirs grant funds to hire a forester who workswhere citizens identified concerns, goals and the Marais des Cygnes River are all on tree planting, timber stand improve-and actions. The RC&D, local conserva- public drinking water sources. ment and other measures to protect andtion districts, Kansas State Extension and The plan gave conservation part- enhance riparian forests. Federal Envi-the Kansas Water Office reviewed public ners the specificity they needed to seek ronmental Quality Incentives Programcomments and fashioned a final report, funding to address concerns. The RC&D, (EQIP) funds are available for cost sharingcompleted in 2003. conservation district and Cooperative on timber stand improvement. A main focus was reducing nonpoint Extension took lead roles. The Franklin District and Kansas Statepollution across the basin by educating Extension sought and received a $200,00017 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  19. 19. EPA 319 grant through the state for alivestock project in 2006. The Franklindistrict administers the program, which isoverseen by a board comprised of repre-sentatives from 13 conservation districts,Extension and producers in the basin. Allthe partners are involved in educationand outreach to promote the program. About 50 percent of the basin is grass-land where beef cattle are raised. “That’sa lot of area and a lot of producers. Wefelt that big gains could be made workingwith producers,” says Franklin DistrictManager Keri Harris. Projects include livestock stream cross-ings, renovations to confined and uncon-fined feeding sites and construction ofalternate water supplies, several of whichfeature solar pumping systems. Sedi-ment basins, grass buffers and riparianfencing are also among practices eligiblefor cost-sharing. “One thing we are proud of is that95 percent of the money is going toproducers,” Harris says. The FranklinDistrict board helped to stretch grantdollars by agreeing to cover Harris’ workon the grant as part of her regular salary.“My board saw the benefit of me beinginvolved,” she says. To further limit costs, the board doesmuch of its project oversight work elec-tronically. Signup sheets are distributedand reviewed over the Internet. “We’vebeen able to get a lot of work done withlittle expense to the grant,” she says. Solar pumping systems move water to alternative watering systems in the Marais des Cygnes River Dollars are stretched as much as Watershed in Kansas. The Franklin County Conservation District and partners are working to help producers install watering systems and protect fragile streams.possible to offer a 50- to 60 percentcost share. Some state funds funneled the ponds are cleaner, and that has an Kansas State University and KDHE areto conservation districts and some EQIP impact across the watershed. conducting scientific monitoring of waterfunds are available, too. The project received an additional quality improvements, but one of the One small project with a big impact $53,000 in EPA 319 funding this year. best gauges of success for the livestockis providing water supply tanks. More It was less than expected, but with project is how well it has spread by wordthan 35 have been completed. “You put the majority of funds going directly to of mouth among producers.a fence around a pond and only allow producers, “everyone is positive we cancattle in to flash graze. Then you run a get a lot done,” she says. EQIP and the More information: Contact Kerisupply line through the pond dam in Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams Harris at district@fccdks.org. Morea freeze-proof concrete supply tank.” also help the partners and producers with information on the WRAPS process isBacteria tests show “amazing improve- streambank stabilization and riparian at http://fccdks.org/wraps.htm.ments,” she says. Streams that flow from vegetation projects. Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 18
  20. 20. KentuckyGreen river CrePadjusts, advances, protectsThe Green River CREP forges a celebrated public-private partnership toprotect precious resources, control soil erosion and preserve working lands.t he success of Kentucky’s Green Soil and Water Conservation District for support and marketing in 14 counties in River Conservation Reserve 48 years. the watershed, located in south central Enhancement Program hasn’t About 100 acres of the 340-acre Kentucky. The five-year-old CREP reliesescaped national attention. The public- Colliver farm are CREP lands, planted to heavily on locally-led conservation at theprivate partnership effort received the native grasses. county level, Coleman says. Conserva-“USDA Two Chiefs Award,” as announced “We had a field day out there, and tion district local work groups have beenby Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and (then) important in reaching out to landowners.and Natural Resources Conserva- Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman Forums were held to determine interesttion Service Chief Arlen Lancaster in came. I gave a talk and told them we before the proposal was submitted forNovember 2007. The chiefs saluted a were doing it for three reasons. One, at consideration. With the CREP in place,strong partnership that links public and that time, we looked at the economics of county-level meetings were organized toprivate entities in efforts to protect a it, and it was fair. Two, both of us have our promote it.distinctive and biologically diverse water- hearts in conservation. We want to keep The CREP is the single largest conser-shed. the soil in good condition, and hearing vation program in Kentucky’s history. It Back home in Kentucky, it was no about efforts to protect the Green River, has solidified and strengthened a part-surprise that in 2002, farmer and conser- we wanted to help. Three, we felt confi- nership between the NRCS and thevationist John Colliver and his brother dent in the conservation partnership. Farm Service Agency, which administerswere among the first state landowners There’s a lot of trust involved when you the federal portion of the program, saysto enroll land on their fourth-generation take land out of production. You hope Coleman. Also involved are state agen-Barren County farm in CREP. Colliver the money is there to pay the bills.” cies of Forestry, Conservation, Fish andis chair of the Jefferson County Soil The partnership Colliver referred to is Wildlife Resources and Water.and Water Conservation District and a strong and innovative. Steve Coleman, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) ismember of the state board. His father director of the Kentucky Soil and Water a major private partner, providing $5was on the board of the Barren County Conservation Commission, notes that million to boost enrollments in perma- conservation districts provide technical nent easements. Its involvement in the project marked a new direction for TNC, which is putting more focus on strategies to aid farm owners. “there’s a lot of trust involved when you take The CREP targets 100,000 acres of envi- land out of production. You hope the money ronmentally sensitive land. Landowners who enroll receive direct payments, cost- is there to pay the bills.” sharing and other incentives. “We’re now John Colliver at 75 percent of the goal,” says Coleman. Farmer and Conservationist One feature of CREPs is that they can be modified after adoption to better focus on local conservation concerns.19 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  21. 21. The Green River and Mammoth Cave are the focus of a multi-county Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program effort in Kentucky. It focuses on helpingagricultural producers achieve conservation improvements on their own properties as they protect the highly valued watershed.“We expanded our CREP and modi-fied some practices in 2007. About thattime, FSA was updating rental rates. That “We have a world treasure in Mammoth Cave,was the perfect storm,” Coleman says. and we’re protecting the resource beforehand,Enrollments jumped after the CREP wasexpanded from eight to 14 counties and not cleaning up pollution.”modified to include karst topography and Steve Coleman,sinkholes identified by Western Kentucky Director of the Kentucky Soil and Water Conservation CommissionUniversity as having a significant impacton water quality and rare mussel species. The CREP’s conservation goals include The Green River is one of the most come out of the land there. We havewater quality, erosion control, farm- diverse ecosystems in North America and many different types of birds,” Colliverland preservation, endangered species is the most biologically abundant branch says. With his own children expressing anprotection and wildlife habitat improve- of the Ohio River System. The river flows interest in the farm, he has also managedments. Western Kentucky University unhindered for more than 100 miles until to preserve the land.spearheads monitoring and assessment. it reaches Mammoth Cave National Park,Coleman notes that the CREP is distinc- the world’s largest and most diverse cave More information: Contact Colemantive because it is proactive. “We have a system. at steve.coleman@ky.gov. Visit www.world treasure in Mammoth Cave, and But back on the Colliver farm, the conservation.ky/progams/crep forwe’re protecting the resource before- program has served its purpose, too. “For more information on the Green Riverhand, not cleaning up pollution.” the first time ever, I’ve seen wild turkeys CREP. Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 20
  22. 22. LouisianaFrom septics to agBMPs in LouisianaThe Coulee Baton Stream microwatershed is the center of an effort by aconservation district, RC&D and other partners to address both agriculturaland residential water quality.A N effort to address water quality identify the problems and have everyone of Environmental Quality. One phase in the Coulee Baton Stream do their share to improve water quality. of the effort that has drawn attention microwatershed is long on solu- We figured it had to be a team approach provides cost sharing of up to 60 percenttions and short on finger pointing. to promote ownership. If everyone to residential homeowners who want to As a result, agricultural producers and accepts ownership and everyone does upgrade their septic systems.residential homeowners can both take their part, you can make a difference.” The work is definitely needed. A prelim-voluntary steps toward improvements. Field trips and public meetings are used inary survey found that 55 of 110 homesThe Vermilion Soil and Water Conser- to reach out to farmers, landowners and discharge directly into a public ditch withvation District and Acadiana Resource homeowners with educational informa- no secondary treatment of sewage. TheConservation and Development Council tion. project will allow all 110 homeowners inare among several partners in the In addition to local stakeholders, state the 6,200-acre watershed the opportu-efforts. environmental and agriculture agen- nity to participate with a maximum cost- The Coulee Baton was chosen because cies and university researchers are also share of $4,000 per system for repair orof its diverse topography, drainage and involved. “That’s a result of our conserva- replacement of their systems. At leastland use. Focusing on all the stakeholders tion district’s work in the past,” Girouard three options are provided, all of themin the area was a deliberate strategy. “We says. leading to better treatment of wastes.want to stay away from finger pointing,” The program is supported by Environ- A separate 319 Grant covers monitoringsays Ernest Girouard, chair of the mental Protection Agency 319 Grants of the impacts of septic system improve-Vermilion District Board. “The goal is to administered by the state Department ments over five years. Many of the homeowners lack the resources to pay for improvements them- selves, Girouard says. Some will struggle “the goal is to identify the problems and have to come up with their part of the cost- everyone do their share to improve water share, and the district continues to search for other funding to help them. quality. We figured it had to be a team approach Outreach to homeowners has been to promote ownership. If everyone accepts extensive. Six meetings have been held to educate them about options. “We’re ownership and everyone does their part, you trying to show them that part of being a can make a difference.” good land steward is to make sure your sewer system is up to snuff,” Girouard Ernest Girouard says. Chair of the Vermilion District Board Three demonstration sites were chosen to display options available to21 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  23. 23. Efforts to address water quality in the Coulee Baton Stream microwatershed include a program to replace residential septic systems. Public meetingssponsored by the Vermilion Soil and Water Conservation District and Acadiana Resource Conservation and Development Council educate residents abouttheir options for cost-sharing projects.homeowners. They include a spray irriga-tion system, a rock field with water plantsand the more conventional systems that “We’re trying to show them that part of beingrely on absorption into the soil. a good land steward is to make sure your sewer Another area of work in the CouleeBaton focuses on encouraging agricul- system is up to snuff.”tural producers and other landownersto apply best management practices, Farmer Program, an intensive educa- because he farmed himself for 35 yearsincluding improved watering systems for tional program that leads to develop- after earning a PH.D. at Louisiana Statecattle and cross-fencing to protect water- ment of an NRCS resource management University.ways. The partners are also working with system plan and state certification. Therice producers on BMPs to reduce sedi- voluntary program is an effort to achieve More information: Contact Ernestment and stream loading when irrigation conservation gains without regulation. Girouard at egirouard@agcenter.lsu.water is released. Federal Environmental Girouard serves as area agent for the edu.Quality Incentives Program funds provide Master Farmer Program. He notes thatcost-sharing for that work. the southwest region where he works Farmers in the area are also encour- has the most participants. Maybe that’saged to participate in the state’s Master Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 22
  24. 24. MaineSome of the best whitewater rafting in the northeast is available on the Kennebec River in Maine. Recreational users are among a wide array of stakeholdersinvolved in the Kennebec River Initiative, coordinated by the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District.Hundreds work to polisha gem called KennebecThe Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District spearheads a multi-county effort tosecure the future of the Kennebec River, one of the state’s most important resources. Multiple goalsfocus on enhancing the river’s assets, including scenic, ecological, fisheries, wildlife, recreation,cultural and economic, and the potential for revitalization efforts in river communities.W heN Maine U.S. Sen. dinated effort didn’t emerge until the Hundreds of citizens and dozens of Edmund Muskie authored Kennebec River Initiative was created. groups guided the resulting effort to the 1972 Clean Water Act, The Kennebec Valley Council of Govern- enhance, protect and utilize the river’she may have had the Kennebec River ments looked to the Kennebec County many assets. The Kennebec Districtin mind. The historic Kennebec was a Soil and Water Conservation District to worked with this broad group to developmess. As with many American rivers, it serve as lead agency for development a plan that paints a hopeful picture forhad long served as a dump for munici- of an action plan for the river. The effort the river. A Kennebec River Council withpalities and industries. Decades of log was boosted by grants from the Maine broad representation is being formed.drives had harmed its physical attributes. Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Land and The council will implement strategiesWhat emerged after the clean-up was a Water Conservation Fund of the National outlined in the action plan. “The wholediamond in the rough. Park Service, the state of Maine, the reason for the KRI was, ‘Now that the Groups worked to take advantage Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the river’s clean what are we going to do withof the renewed resource, but a coor- Council of Governments. it? ’ ” says Josh Platt, project director on the Kennebec District staff.23 Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes
  25. 25. He credits the guiding vision of longtimeriver activist Bill Townsend, a Skowheganattorney who wrote a detailed appraisal “the plan talks about not only the naturalof the river in 1971 and focused on the resources piece, but also the people piece. Itkey questions: “How do we sustain thisriver, maintain its character and assure its asks how we can revitalize downtowns anduse by the people of Maine?” The district first coordinated efforts to promote wise development. We look at themap the river and its diverse resources, natural resources the river offers as a way tousing its own Geographic Informa-tion Systems expertise and extensive improve wise use.”input from citizens at mapping sessions. Josh PlattMapping focused on the river’s northern, Project Director, Kennebec District staffcentral and tidal reaches, which aredistinct and diverse as the river cuts itsway from south central Maine to the the ground.” While the district had theAtlantic Ocean. The river includes every- A cleaned-up Kennebec River is project lead, it worked with four otherthing from high-quality whitewater rafting already home to community river festi- conservation districts on plan develop-to rich salmon fisheries and important vals, concerts, trails and other assets. ment. Such cooperation will be neededtidal resources. Its shores are home to The action plan seeks to enhance and in the future.wilderness areas, historic forts, commu- add to those activities and find ways to Platt is now working with variousnity waterfronts, agricultural and indus- link them regionally while protecting the groups to write grants, further developtrial users. base resource. mapping and take other steps toward Twenty towns, 11 land trust groups, How did a conservation district get meeting the plan’s goals. The Kennebecfive local trails groups, nine businesses involved? “The district was hired because River is in good hands.and several state agencies participated districts tend to get things done,” saysin mapping. The resulting 15 maps detail Platt. “Districts in Maine and across the More information: Contact Platt atareas of the river that need a closer look at country have a history of developing a josh@kcswcd.org, and visit the districtaccess, offer opportunities for economic goal, planning, getting partners together web site at www.kcswcd.org.development or better marketing, and then getting something done onprovide high-value habitat and may need An array of stakeholders participated in planning efforts for the Kennebec River Initiative.protection or restoration work. A series of forums followed. Morethan 300 citizens participated. Theirinput led to a plan that focuses on riveraccess improvement; trail enhancementand development; corridor protectionand enhancement, including fisheries;community-based water development;agricultural land preservation; andmarketing and tourism. The action plan isa menu of possible projects and a compi-lation of ideas and proposals for futureaction. “The plan talks about not only thenatural resources piece, but also thepeople piece,” Platt says. “It asks how wecan revitalize downtowns and promotewise development. We look at the naturalresources the river offers as a way toimprove wise use.” Our Land, Our Water: Case Studies in Locally Led Successes 24