A new National Water Quality Initiative committed to improving impaired watersheds located within the Bayou Bartholomew watershed in Arkansas has been launched. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will manage the initiative by making funds available to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in the selected watersheds.

“The Water Quality Initiative will further NRCS’ partnership efforts to improve water quality using voluntary actions on private lands,” said State Conservationist Mike Sullivan. “This initiative is a focused approach in areas facing significant natural resource challenges. It bolsters the positive results of landscape conservation initiatives NRCS and its partners already have underway.”

Through this effort, eligible producers in Cousart Bayou-Little Cypress Bayou, Upper Deep Bayou and Lower Deep Bayou watersheds will invest in voluntary conservation actions to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities. The selected watersheds were identified with help from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC), Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts (AACD), University of Arkansas and other partners.

Using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, NRCS will provide technical and financial assistance to producers to install conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and tailwater recovery systems in watersheds with impairments where the federal investment can make a difference to improve water quality.

“American farmers are good stewards of the environment, especially when they have the tools they need to protect or improve fish and wildlife habitat and water quality,” said NRCS Chief Dave White. “We look forward to collaborating with producers in key watersheds to help them have a positive impact on streams with impaired water quality.”

Arkansas’s three watersheds were selected based on the high amount of sediment and total phosphorus concentration that flow into tributaries of the Bayou Bartholomew watershed. Deep Bayou and Jacks Bayou, which flow through the watersheds, have been identified as impaired waterways because of excessive levels of siltation primarily from agricultural practices. The three watershed total 62,473 acres in parts of Jefferson and Lincoln counties.

  • Cousart Bayou-Little Cypress Bayou-- This 23,763 acre watershed has 27 miles of streams and 51 miles of canals and ditches. The watershed has mixed land uses of crops (74.8 percent), forest (12 percent), grass (9.4 percent) and urban (2.3 percent). Based on results from the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), Cousart Bayou is listed by ANRC as high priority based on sediment and total phosphorus concentration.
  • Upper Deep Bayou-- This 16,593 acre watershed has 33 miles of streams and 3 miles of canals and ditches. The watershed has mixed land uses of crops (46.1 percent), forest (30.4 percent), grass (17.4 percent) and urban (3.2 percent). Based on SWAT results, the watershed is listed by ANRC as high priority based on total phosphorus concentration.
  • Lower Deep Bayou-- This 17,177 acre watershed has 23 miles of streams and 42 miles of canals and ditches. The watershed has mixed land uses of crops (68.7 percent), forest (16 percent), grass (13.4 percent) and urban (1.2 percent). Based on SWAT results, the watershed is listed by ANRC as high priority based on total phosphorus concentration.

NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. Remember to check with your local NRCS office to see if you are located in a selected watershed. All applications for funding consideration, during this fiscal year, must be received by June 15, 2012. This summer, NRCS will notify all applicants of the results and begin developing contracts with selected applicants.

Since 1935, NRCS’s nationwide conservation delivery system works with private landowners to put conservation on the ground based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests. For more information about NRCS’ programs, initiatives and services in Arkansas, visit us online at www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov.