USDA Selects First Projects for New, Innovative RCPP Program

RCPP Proposals map via the USDA
RCPP Proposals map via the USDA

Here’s the release from the United States Department of Agriculture (Petra Barnes). (Click through for the data):

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 100 high-impact projects across all 50 states, including Colorado will receive more than $370 million as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

RCPP’s historic focus on public-private partnership enables private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in efforts to keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.

This year’s projects in Colorado will accomplish a wide diversity of agricultural and natural resource goals from facilitating the conversion of flood irrigation systems to more resource-efficient pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower to significantly increasing water use efficiency by coordinating expanded efforts and by integrating off-farm irrigation conveyance system and on-farm water application efficiency improvements.

“Partners are seeing the value of conservation and investing in their future,” Vilsack said. “These partnerships are forging a new path for getting conservation on the ground and are providing opportunities for communities to have a voice and ownership in protecting and improving our natural resources. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program ushers in a new era of conservation, and we’re excited about the down-the-road benefits from this new Farm Bill program.”

This year’s projects will engage hundreds of partners with wide-ranging interests, including communities, conservation districts, agribusiness, non-government organizations, for- and non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies and Tribal governments. In addition to USDA funds, partners’ will contribute an estimated $400 million, more than doubling USDA’s investment.

“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” said Elise Boeke, Acting USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist in Colorado. “Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.”

More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. Of those, more than 200 were invited to submit full proposals. “With so many strong project proposals, the project selection process was extremely competitive. RCPP is a 5-year $1.2 billion USDA commitment; projects not selected in this first year may be eligible in subsequent years,” Boeke said.

For more information on all RCPP projects please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center.

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south
Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Nearly $10 million in federal funding will go to boost water efficiency in the Gunnison Basin and boost the generation of electricity from irrigation systems.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District will administer $8 million to be used with regional conservation partnership programs, which were established in the 2014 Farm Bill, to use water more efficiently and reduce the amount of salts and selenium carried in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

The grant “will really help our agricultural producers implement new conservation practices that not only produce more ‘crop per drop’ of water, but significantly reduces their environmental footprint,” said Dave Kanzer, senior water resources engineer for the River District.

The agency will coordinate efforts to boost water efficiency by coordinating canals, ditches and pipes that deliver water to farms with improvements in the way water is delivered to crops, frequently by eliminating flood irrigation in favor of sprinkler and other irrigation systems.

The River District will use the money from the Agriculture Department to match funding from the Interior Department, as well as state, local and River District funds, to pay for the projects, Kanzer said.

“This grant is a big win-win for agricultural, economic and environmental sustainability,” Kanzer said.

The program will focus on the Bostwick Park, North Fork and Crawford water conservancy districts, as well as the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, for the projects, Kanzer said.

Micro-hydroelectric plant
Micro-hydroelectric plant

The Colorado Department of Agriculture will coordinate a $1.8 million grant to support development of hydropower generation from agricultural canals and ditches.

Congress previously approved legislation easing the development of small hydropower projects by U.S, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

Tipton and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., each served on their houses’ respective agriculture committees, which crafted the Farm Bill.

“These projects will help Colorado and other states across the West better manage our water resources in the face of increased demand and persistent drought conditions,” Bennet said in a statement.

More conservation coverage here. More hydroelectric/hydropower coverage here

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