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  1. Mississippi River BasinHealthy WatershedsInitiative (MRBI)OVERVIEWThomas W. ChristensenRegional ConservationistUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

  2. MRBI Goal • Improve the health of the Mississippi River Basin by: • Working with producers to help them voluntarily implement conservation practices which: • Avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff • Restore/enhance wildlife habitat • Maintain agricultural productivity 2

  3. MRBI Funding - NRCS • NRCS will offer this Initiative for 4 fiscal years: 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. • NRCS will dedicate at least $80 million in each of these fiscal years. • Funding is above regular program funding levels in these 12 States. 3

  4. MRBI Funding - NRCS Dedicated additional financial assistance funding, by Program • $50 million for Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • $25 million for Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • $5 million for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 4

  5. Watersheds Focus Areas 5

  6. Watershed Selection • State Technical Committee input • Information to consider: • CEAP data/results • SPARROW data • State-level water quality data • Nitrogen/Phosphorus monitoring/modeling • State-level nutrient strategies/priorities FocusArea

  7. Watershed Selection • Requests for Proposals issued will target 12-digit HUCs within identified Focus Areas • Leverage non-federal resources • Conservation applied to improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and other natural resource concerns • Ability to document results 9

  8. Summary – What is different about the MRBI? • Dedicated funding in addition to base program = acceleration; • Focus: Resource concerns, watersheds, and conservation practices; • Use of wetlands to complement working lands conservation; • Partner involvement in initiative design; • Competition through RFP’s in selecting watershed focus; • Significant partner contributions; • Additional flexibilities in CCPI not available through ongoing programs (for EQIP, WHIP, and CSP); • Payment schedule: income forgone, acquisition of technical knowledge, and producer training; and, • Accountability and assessment, including some funding for edge of field monitoring. 10

  9. Request for Proposals for MRBI • Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 11

  10. Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • The purpose of CCPI, as a part of MRBI, is to target and leverage resources to address water quality resource concerns by reducing the downstream nutrient loading of Phosphorous and Nitrogen in the Mississippi River Basin. • Individual agricultural producers may not submit a CCPI MRBI proposal, but may apply for program benefits through EQIP, WHIP, or CSP after the NRCS Chief selects and announces a partner’s proposed project area. 12

  11. Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • Through CCPI-MRBI the following financial assistance amounts will be targeted in the region: • $40 million – EQIP • $5 million – WHIP • ~278,000 acres – CSP • Projects will be implemented through existing program authorities and procedures - Partners can recommend flexibilities needed for EQIP, WHIP and CSP through project proposals. • Potential partners must submit complete proposals to the NRCS Chief for evaluation • The NRCS Chief will consult with the appropriate State Conservationist(s) prior to final selection and approval 13

  12. Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • Financial assistance for monitoring and evaluation will be piloted • 10% maximum of total financial assistance funds in a proposal may be designated for edge-of-field monitoring through producer contracts. • New NRCS interim practice standard for monitoring and evaluation is being developed. • A payment schedule will be developed for cost-sharing on the monitoring and evaluation practice. 14

  13. Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) • Higher priority will be given to proposals that: • Integrate multiple program objectives • Provide evidence of a watershed planning process • Include an effective monitoring component • Demonstrate the partner’s financial commitment and capability to accomplish water quality monitoring • Deliver high percentages of applied conservation practices to address water quality • Include multiple core and supporting practices from each practice category (i.e. avoiding, controlling, and trapping) 15

  14. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • Under MRBI, $25 million of financial assistance funds from the WRP is targeted each fiscal year through the WREP. • Projects will be selected through a competitive process based on applications submitted by partners. • Projects will be implemented through existing program authorities and procedures. Wetland restoration will be designed to maximize wildlife habitat values and water quality in accordance with WRP regulations and policy. • Projects will be implemented using wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement practices in the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide. 16

  15. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • WREP leverages resources of partners to: • Protect, restore, and enhance high priority wetlands. • Improve wildlife habitat. • Reduce nutrient loading to achieve water quality objectives. • Partners are required to provide financial and/or technical resources for monitoring. • Proposals that include additional partner resources, such as cost sharing for additional water quality practices, will be given greater consideration in the selection process. 17

  16. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • Individual landowners may not submit a WREP proposal. • Once project area has been approved and announced, eligible landowners may apply for WREP through their local NRCS office. • WREP financial and technical assistance is delivered to eligible landowners in approved project areas through regular contracting processes. • Approved partners may help facilitate submission of landowners’ applications. 18

  17. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • The Chief shall give a higher priority to proposals that: • Have a high potential to achieve water quality objectives through nutrient reduction. • Have a high potential to significantly improve wildlife habitat. • Significantly leverage non-Federal resources. • Demonstrate the partner’s history of working cooperatively with landowners. 19

  18. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • The Chief shall give a higher priority to proposals that: • Utilize innovative methods and outcome-based performance measures. • Provide evidence that projects will be completed within 2 years. • Demonstrate the partner’s financial commitment to monitoring. 20

  19. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • The Chief shall give a higher priority to proposals that: • Assist the participants in meeting regulatory requirements. • Provide for evaluation of effectiveness beyond water quality. • Provide for matching funds to assist landowners’ implementation. • Facilitate the submission of landowner applications. 21

  20. Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) • The Chief shall give a higher priority to proposals that: • Provide outreach to beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and Indian Tribes. • Integrate WREP activities with a MRBI Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative project area. 22

  21. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) CIG is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production. 23

  22. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Project Eligibility To be eligible for CIG, projects must involve landowners who meet the EQIP eligibility requirements. Matching Funds Selected applicants may receive CIG grants of up to 50 percent of the total project cost. 24

  23. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) CIG MRBI is a Component of the National CIG Request for Proposals. For FY 2010, CIG is employing the following funding categories: • National (up to $15 million), • Chesapeake Bay Watershed (up to $5 million), and • Mississippi River Basin (up to $5 million). 25

  24. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Awards The maximum award amount for any project will not exceed $1 million in FY 2010. CIG will fund single- and multi-year projects, not to exceed 3 years. 26

  25. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) MRBI Funding Categories • Water Management • Vegetative Practices • Nutrient Management • Manure Management • Adaptive Management • Program Outreach 27

  26. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Evaluation Criteria • Purpose, Approach and Goals • Innovative Technology or Approach • Project Management • Transferability • Proposals that complement MRBI proposals under the CCPI or WREP will be given higher priority consideration in the selection process. 28

  27. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 1) Purpose, Approach and Goals Design and implementation of project based on sound methodology and/or demonstrated technology. Promotes environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. Project outcome is clearly measurable. Potential for successful completion. Both beneficial and adverse impacts are considered and an acceptably significant level of improvement will be achieved.

  28. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 2)Innovative Technology or Approach Project is innovative Project conforms to the description of innovative projects or activities in the Request for Proposal.

  29. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 3) Project Management Timeline and milestones are clear and reasonable. Project staff has technical expertise needed. Budget is adequately explained and justified. Experience and capacity to partner with and gain the support of other organizations, institutions and agencies.

  30. Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 4) Transferability Potential for producers and landowners to use the innovative technology or technologies. Potential to transfer the approach or technology nationally or to a broader audience or other geographic or socio-economic areas, including limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and other historically underserved producers and communities. Potential for NRCS to successfully use the innovative approach or methods. Project will result in the development of technical or related technology transfer materials (technical standards, technical notes, guide sheets, handbooks, software, etc.)

  31. Additional Programs • Other Federal Programs • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) • Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) • EPA 319 • State and Other Partners’ Programs 33

  32. Conservation Systems Approach through Practices • A conservation systems approach implements multiple practices and management techniques that work together to address water quality nutrient issues at the edge of farm fields. • Practices • Core • Supporting 34

  33. Avoiding, Controlling, Trapping(ACT) • Avoiding • Nutrient Management • Rate, Timing, Form, Methods • Controlling • Residue & Tillage Management • Drainage Water Management • Trapping • Buffers • Wetland designed for nutrient removal 35

  34. CORE CONSERVATION PRACTICES AVOIDING 328 - Conservation Crop Rotation 340 - Cover Crop 528 - Prescribed Grazing 590 - Nutrient Management 633 - Waste Utilization CONTROLLING 329 - Residue & Tillage Management - No Till/Strip Till 330 - Contour Farming 345 - Residue & Tillage Management - Mulch Till 346 - Residue & Tillage Management - Ridge Till 412 - Grassed Waterway 512 - Pasture & Hayland Planting 554 - Drainage Water Management 585 - Stripcropping 600 - Terrace 643 - Restoration & Management of Declining Habitats 645 - Upland Wildlife Habitat Management TRAPPING 332 - Contour Buffer Strips 656 - Constructed Wetland 390 - Riparian Herbaceous Cover 657 - Wetland Restoration 391 - Riparian Forest Buffer 658 - Wetland Creation 393 - Filter Strip 659 - Wetland Enhancement 601 - Vegetative Barriers 747 - Denitrifying Bioreactor 635 - Vegetated Treatment Area 36

  35. SUPPORTING CONSERVATION PRACTICES • AVOIDING • 313 - Waste Storage Facility • 317 - Composting Facility • 327 - Conservation Cover • 381 - Silvopasture Establishment • 382 - Fence • 472 - Access Control • 511 - Forage Harvest Management • 558 - Roof Runoff Structure • 561 - Heavy Use Area Protection • 612 - Tree & Shrub Planting • 632 - Solid/Liquid Waste Separation • Facility • 634 - Waste Transfer CONTROLLING 324 - Deep Tillage 342 - Critical Area Planting 362 - Diversion 386 - Field Border 410 - Grade Stabilization Structure 430 - Irrigation Water Conveyance 447 - Tailwater Recovery 449 - Irrigation Water Management 468 – Lined Waterway or Outlet 484 - Mulching 533 - Pumping Plant 587 - Structure for Water Control 606 - Subsurface Drainage 607 - Surface Drainage 620 - Underground Outlet 638 - Water & Sediment Control Basin TRAPPING 342 - Critical Area Planting 533 - Pumping Plant 350 - Sediment Basin 587 - Structure for Water Control 356 - Dike 629 - Waste Treatment 436 - Irrigation Storage Reservoir 638 - Water & Sediment Control Basin 490 - Forest Site Preparation 646 - Shallow Water Development & Management 37

  36. EQIP Conservation Activity Plans • Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan • Irrigation Water Management Plan • Drainage Water Management Plan 38

  37. Monitoring and Evaluation Three-Tiered Approach: • Field Scale • Small Watershed Scale (12-digit HUC) • Large Watershed Scale (8-digit HUC) 39

  38. NRCS is focused on “Edge of Field” monitoring and evaluation, with the primary focus for MRBI on water quality. NRCS is developing a practice standard for monitoring and evaluation. Monitoring and Evaluation 40

  39. Partner Participation • Submitting proposals (or partner with groups submitting proposals) for CCPI, CIG, and WREP • Educating the public • Conducting outreach activities • Committing staff to provide technical assistance and educational activities

  40. Partner Participation • Assisting with monitoring, evaluation, and assessment activities • Targeting your organization’s programs in MRBI focus areas • Designating a point of contact for coordination and collaboration Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative

  41. Projected Timeline November 23 2009 Selection of Watershed Focus Areas (8-digit HUC’s) Early January 2010 Release of Requests for Proposals (CCPI, WREP, CIG) Early March 2010 Closure of Requests for Proposals (60 days after release) Late March 2010 Selection of Project Areas (12-digit HUC’s) April and June 2010 Enter into Agreements with Partners in Project Areas, and Conduct signup with Landowners/Producers June - September 2010 Obligate funds through Agreements and Contracts; Begin Conservation Practice Implementation

  42. Questions? Follow-up questions can be sent to Aaron Lauster Acting MRBI coordinator or 202-690-0318 44

  43. EEO Statement The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. 45