SIDNEY – Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), one of the 19 Federal agencies in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), provided $23.5 million in financial assistance to farmers in the Lake Erie watershed. This year, $2.3 million from the GLRI are available for Ohio farmers to implement conservation practices in the following Western Lake Erie Basin sub-watersheds: St. Joseph, St. Marys, Upper Maumee, Auglaize, Raisin, Ottawa-Stony, Tiffin, Lower Maumee, Cedar-Portage, Sandusky and Blanchard.
The harmful algal blooms affecting individuals, businesses, and the aquatic ecosystem continue to occur with varying severity. Numerous local, State, and Federal and multi-national governmental agencies and organizations, non-profits, universities, researchers, agriculture and environmental groups have created action plans, dedicated staff and resources, collected data, and published reports on the challenges of reducing the harmful algal blooms. Most agree that working collaboratively will multiply individual efforts producing solutions sooner, rather than later.
This spring, NRCS Chief Jason Weller, together with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, The Nature Conservancy, the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, and Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, announced one of the most coordinated conservation efforts to date, the 3-year, $41 million Western Lake Erie Basin Initiative. Over 20 organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, from Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, participated in sessions providing information and feedback on a draft plan used as the basis for the final WLEB Initiative 2016-2018 Strategy. Chief Weller said, “Working with others in the scientific and conservation community, co-investing together, taking action together, reporting results together, we are ultimately fixing problems across the county. All of the ingredients for success are right here, if anything more so, in the Lake Erie Basin than anywhere else in the country I’ve been.”
Farmers with land in Ohio’s portion of the WLEB should contact their local NRCS office as soon as possible to begin the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) GLRI application process. Farmers in the WLEB have had several opportunities to apply for EQIP this year. Those applicants who did not received funding should notify their NRCS office to discuss updating their previous application for consideration in EQIP through GLRI. June 17, 2016, is application deadline for GLRI funding this year.
For more information on the GLRI, the WLEB Initiative, or other conservation funding opportunities in the WLEB, visit www.oh.nrcs.usda.gov. To find a local USDA Service Center on line at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app.