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New wetland program established in Webster County

By Staff | Aug 7, 2009

This wetland on the Steve Market farm will eventually be turned into the first Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program wetland project in Webster County. Construction for the project is expected to begin in October.

CLARE – The ground-breaking ceremony held Wednesday near Clare inaugurated the first Conservation Reserve Program wetland project to be built in Webster County.

Located on the Steve Market farm, the new CREP should be under construction in October and is expected to be completed in November with the seeding of grasses and other plants.

The Iowa CREP is a state, federal, local and private partnership that provides incentives to landowners who voluntarily establish wetlands for water quality improvement in the tile-drained regions of Iowa.

The goal of the program is to reduce nitrogen loads and movement of other agricultural chemicals from croplands to streams and rivers.

The program is a joint effort of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the United States Department of Agriculture in cooperation with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Additional agencies participating in the program include the USDA Farm Service Agency, Iowa State University and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“This program is a cooperative effort, but most important are the owners for using their property,” said Chuck Gipp, director of the Division of Soil Conservation for IDALS. “It shows they are concerned enough about how what happens on their property affects others.”

Dean Lemke, Water Resources bureau chief for IDALS, said a CREP is expected to remove 40 to 90 percent of nitrates; each one constructed helps Iowa meet the goal of reducing the amount of nitrates going downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.

“The concept is to build wetlands in strategic places such as this one,” said Lemke. “We will need a lot of these to meet our goals as we do not want to take any land out of production.”

CREP technology, Lemke said, was developed at Iowa State University through research that began in 1993 thanks to funding provided from agricultural chemical purchases.

Matt Lechtenberg, CREP field coordinator, said bidding for CREP in Webster County will take place in the next few weeks. After a contractor is chosen and necessary contracts are signed, ground work will begin.

First, a structure is built that impounds water. Then other ground work will create a buffer which will be seeded to grasses, said Lechtenberg.

He said an engineer will be on site to make sure everything is going as planned.

Lechtenberg estimated that the grasses and vegetation will mature to where the project will be in full working mode about three years after the completion of a CREP installation.

Not only do CREP wetlands provide for a significant reduction in nitrate and other chemical run-off, but it also creates a high-quality wildlife habitat that can later be used for recreation opportunities with the permission of the landowner, he said.

Landowners enrolling in CREP will receive up to 15 years of annual rental payments from the USDA for enrolled acres paid at 150 percent of the average soil rental rate, plus a $2-per-acre maintenance payment. They also receive 100 percent cost-share for wetland restoration and buffer establishment, as well as a one-time up-front incentive payment to enter into either a 30-year or perpetual easement.

Lechtenberg said a CREP is not your typical wetland project. In order to determine if a producer’s wetland meets the criteria, professionals will first use Geographic Information Systems to examine the land.

It is estimated that a 28-acre CREP will remove 300 tons of nitrates during its 150-year lifetime, said Shawn Richmond, CREP program coordinator.

Near Clare, drainage to the CREP on the Market farm comes from 700 acres which Richmond said will not be hindered with the construction of the project.

As a landowner, Market is pleased to be having a CREP installed on this farmland.

“It’s a positive for everybody and it will benefit a big part of the Midwest all the way down to Louisiana and the Gulf.” said Market.

Market estimated that out of the 28 acres used for the CREP only eight acres is currently in production.

“I’m really not losing any farm ground and rather than just letting it sit here it can now benefit people,” he said. “And we will have a nice outdoor recreational area when it is finished. This is a win for everybody and I think it is something more people should look into.”

Contact Kriss Nelson @ jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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