December 14, 2006

CREP Program Being Considered For Local Watershed Protection

A combination of state programs may help the City of Memphis insure its water quality. Representatives from the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA) offices met with city officials this month to discuss the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

The voluntary crop retirement program targets ground surrounding drinking water sources such as Lake Show-Me. The project targets improved drinking water quality to insure public health while also establishing improved wildlife habitat and conserving top soil.

The first CREP projects were approved in 2000. Memphis was recently approved to participate and according to outgoing NRCS director Tom Deberry, there are approximately 470 acres adjoining Lake Show-Me that would be eligible for participation.

Gary Kittle of the USDA office stated that the Missouri Department of Conservation is contributing $2 to the project, which equals about $100 an acre for a one-time sign-up bonus. In addition to this bonus, CREP calls for a local sign-up bonus of 1.5 times the annual rental rate per acre for the ground.

So basically ground that would rent for $85 an acre would generate a $227.50 sign-up bonus per acre, said Deberry who told the council he would be leaving the NRCS office at the end of the year.

His likely replacement, Ken Berry, was present to discuss the CREP program with the city council. Berry said that Memphis was among approximately 40,000 acres statewide that was eligible for the program. However he noted funding was limited.

Kittle stated that the city already has an approved Watershed Management Plan on record with the Department of Natural Resources. He stated the next step would be to secure funding for the sign-up bonus, which would be paid by the city. He indicated grant funding was available through DNR.

In preparation for the grant application, Kittle and Berry indicated they would likely hold meetings with the property owners adjacent to the lake to determine interest in the program. The 15-year contract would require the ground to be seeded down and removed from agricultural usage.

Right now I think this would be one of the best things we could do for our watershed, said City Water Superintendent Dennis Howard. This would help eliminate runoff from farm ground, keeping pesticides and animal waste away from the lake while also reducing sediment runoff.

Deberry stated that after the initial sign-up bonus, the CREP reverts to basic CRP payment structure.

The city council agreed to offer the CREP program contingent upon the availability of DNR grant funding.

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