USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Indiana announced that it is awarding $7.9 million for the Kankakee Watershed Initiative led by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and funded by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP is a partner-driven program that leverages resources to advance innovative projects that address climate change, enhance water quality and address other critical challenges on agricultural and forest land.
“Our partners are experts in their fields and understand the challenges in their own backyards,” Indiana NRCS State Conservationist Jerry Raynor said. “Through RCPP we can tap into that knowledge, in partnership with producers and USDA, to come up with lasting solutions to the obstacles that farmers and landowners face. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of a public-private partnership at its best.”
RCPP allows for partner support that assists with defraying costs not covered by the program. This initiative brings together Indiana, Illinois and 43 partners to work to improve the overall health of the iconic Kankakee and Iroquois watersheds. The project enables the Kankakee River Basin Commission and other key partners to leverage resources to address the watershed’s unique, sizable conservation challenges. Through additional partners like Purdue Extension, the Northwest Food Co-op, and the local soil and water conservation districts, this project will impact a diverse agricultural community such as urban producers, traditional agriculture producers and non-conventional producers, all of whom have an interest in initiative watersheds.
The primary objective of this multi-state initiative is to accomplish nutrient reduction goals to address excess water by implementing agricultural and forest land conservation practices and voluntarily establishing wetland easements. The project aims to work with a multitude of landowners including forestland, urban, specialty crop and traditional farmers to install conservation practices that facilitate water storage, build community involvement and improve water quality within the initiative’s focal region.
“Soil and water conservation is crucial for our state and our nation,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “We are proud that this multi-state conservation opportunity is flowing through Indiana. Our farmers have been instrumental for years in achieving nutrient reduction within our water systems and I look forward to the work being done in and around the Midwest through these funds.”
The initiative will further efforts of conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of soil, water, and wildlife on a watershed scale. The initiative’s target is to install 3,000 acres of new conservation cover, two-miles of two-stage ditches, 800 acres of wetland easements and over 2,500 conservation practices to achieve nutrient reduction goals. The flexibilities in RCPP also allow this initiative to leverage partners in targeting outreach through educational events and providing cover crop seeds in urban communities to encourage conservation and sound soil health practices.
“This funding is critical to the Kankakee River water quality and quantity efforts, and our department is honored to be selected for this grant,” said Bruce Kettler, Director, Indiana State Department of Agriculture. “I would also like to acknowledge the commission and partners who have been so instrumental in securing this funding and working toward increasing conservation efforts.”
Private landowners can apply to participate in an RCPP project in their region through awarded partners or at their local USDA service center.