Arkansas Valley: NRCS signs first watershed contract in nation for stimulus dough

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

Members of the Natural Resources Conservation Service on Wednesday signed the first contract of four watershed projects aimed at erosion control or habitat preservation in Southeastern Colorado. The projects, which are part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, total about $1 million. The money will go toward more than 50 projects in four areas that have existing watershed projects covering about 288,000 acres in Otero, Bent, Prowers and Las Animas counties. Work is sponsored in partnerships between the conservation service and landowners…

Allen Green, state conservationist, said the contract was the first signed in the nation as part of Obama’s $85 million watershed program. The Highline project, which began in 1998 and is the largest of the four in Southeastern Colorado, will eventually produce 28 land treatment contracts with producers. There will be at least 3,000 acres of conservation improvements in the area, Knapp said. The project includes water quality improvement, conservation of appropriated water supply and the enhancement of scarce wildlife habitat. Specifically, the project will improve both surface and groundwater quality and reduce irrigation-induced erosion to acceptable levels. It also will more effectively conserve and use available water supplies by improving on-farm irrigation water management which may reduce deep percolation. Padilla, whose farm is in the West Otero County Water District, will use the funding to improve his irrigation system to make more efficient use of water and to improve his farming and ranching operation in Rocky Ford…

Other projects will reduce erosion and sediment deposits into Lake Trinidad and the Arkansas River. Some have been in the planning process for a decade, but never started because of a lack of funding, Green said. Other watershed projects approved for funding included Limestone-Graveyard creeks, Holbrook Lake Ditch and the Trinidad Lake north watershed. The project at Trinidad Lake, which started in 1992, will create 10 land treatment contracts with mostly family-owned farms. Officials said the project will result in significant environmental improvements by reducing contaminant and sediment-loading to the lake which will prolong the waters and improve the water quality delivered to the lake. The Limestone-Graveyard Creek Watershed project begun in Bent and Prowers counties in 1996 will create five land treatment contracts with producers. The 2001 Holbrook Lake Ditch Watershed project will create eight land treatment contracts with farmers. The projects aim to improve water quality, conserve an over-appropriated water supply and enhance wildlife habitat.

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