Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tehama resource agency wins $300,000 grant

The Tehama County Resource Conservation District has received $300,000 in federal funds for water conservation along the Sacramento River as part of the Natural Resource Conservation Service's Bay Delta Initiative.

From an NRCS news release:
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California has approved four proposed project areas to be added to its three-year old Bay Delta Initiative, bringing the total number of project areas to 15. Farm and conservation groups in the approved areas work with farmers from Colusa to Bakersfield on voluntary projects to conserve and protect water and wildlife habitat. Farmers who wish to apply for contracts within these project areas must do so by March 21, 2014, to insure consideration for funding in 2014. [...]

Eighteen million dollars is available for farmers in the approved areas, through the Farm Bill-funded program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). In addition, four of the continuing projects also received funding from the Bureau of Reclamation to improve water delivery infrastructure. NRCS funding then complements that investment by funding needed on-farm irrigation improvements. For example, pressurizing a system for more efficient delivery could be funded by the Bureau while delivering the newly pressurized water to fields with leak-resistant pipes and systems, may be funded by NRCS. The result is a more efficient water delivery system where all the opportunities for water savings are more fully realized.

In addition to farmers and consumers, water birds in the Sacramento Valley are also benefiting from the Initiative. Farmers of rice and other irrigated crops are continuing work on a BDI project that extends the time water is available on fields to enhance agricultural land for wildlife.

BDI project sponsors are required to outline strategies to address one or more of the Initiative's three priority resource goals: 1) Water conservation and irrigation management on irrigated cropland; 2) Water quality improvements including nutrient management and erosion control on irrigated cropland, dairies, and associated areas; 3) Ecosystem restoration for aquatic and wetland habitat.

Since 2012, the NRCS BDI initiative has brought not only $48 million in farmland conservation infrastructure and management improvements to the Bay Delta ecosystem, but also increased conservation planning and technical assistance. Additionally, $32.5 million has been invested in easements to protect historic wetlands in the area. The California Bay-Delta watershed is remarkable for its agricultural productivity, ecological diversity, and complexity. It is home to a water delivery system which is one of the largest and most complex in the nation. Water for an estimated $400 billion of annual economic activity is delivered through the Bay-Delta system, including $28 billion in the agricultural industry. The watershed encompasses over 38 million acres, and within this area six counties produce more food than any other comparably sized area in the world.

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