NACD ASKS CONGRESS TO REJECT PROPOSED SLASHING OF 319 GRANTS
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2017 – The National Association of Conservation Districts is deeply concerned that the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposes eliminating a voluntary program critical to improving watersheds and providing cleaner drinking water across the country.
“The Section 319 grant program routinely provides communities with the resources they need to keep our nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes healthy and productive,” NACD President Brent Van Dyke said. “This program has been proven effective at improving impaired watersheds across the country in a diversity of circumstances. We strongly encourage Congress to disregard this proposal.”
Section 319 non-point source grants are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with Clean Water Act authority. These state-directed grants provide up to 60 percent of the costs associated with conducting non-point source pollution assessments and management programs at the local level in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories.
“While half of Section 319 grants help mitigate agricultural runoff, the rest are used to mitigate other non-point sources that have nothing to do with farms or ranches,” NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said. “The White House says USDA should be the sole agency responsible for addressing non-point source pollution in this country, but the Department of Agriculture has no way of mitigating other non-point sources like abandoned mining operations or urban stormwater.”
“Furthermore, the administration has also proposed a 21 percent cut to USDA’s budget,” Peters continued. “How could American producers possibly implement conservation at the level they are today with significantly fewer resources? USDA’s voluntary conservation programs are already oversubscribed and demand is on the rise.”
In Minnesota, a Section 319 grant gave the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Clearwater County and Red Lake County Soil and Water Conservation Districts the resources they needed to drastically reduce bacteria counts within northwestern Minnesota’s Clearwater River. Their work, which included helping farmers located along the river implement conservation practices, restored a 58-mile segment of the waterway and led to its delisting as impaired.
In New Mexico, a diverse partnership, including the Santa Fe Soil and Water Conservation District, helped livestock producers and a wastewater treatment plant implement best management practices to remove pH and sedimentation impairments from a segment of the lower Santa Fe River. These practices included restoring riparian vegetation, removing levees, and constructing wetlands.
In Iowa, the Adams County Soil and Water Conservation District used Section 319 funds to significantly reduce sediment delivery into three local waterbodies – Lake Binder, Lake Icaria, and West Lake Corning – by helping producers implement rotational grazing and agricultural best management practices, install grade stabilization structures, and construct terraces to trap runoff. As a direct result, all three waterbodies have been delisted as impaired.
In Pennsylvania, the Clearfield County Conservation District was awarded a Section 319 grant to clean up abandoned mine drainage in Deer Creek – a tributary of the Susquehanna River, which flows to the Chesapeake Bay. By installing water treatment ponds, the district will remove heavy metals like iron from the water, ultimately increasing pH levels in the stream and restoring habitat for aquatic species.
For more Section 319 program success stories, visit the EPA’s website.
The National Association of Conservation Districts is the non-profit organization that represents the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts, their state associations and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 70 years, local conservation districts have worked with cooperating landowners and managers of private working lands to help them plan and apply effective conservation practices. For more information about NACD, visit: www.nacdnet.org.