As major partners in the Boone River project, both the ISA and TNC have contributed staff to the project. The project proposal showed ISA would contribute nearly $2 million for monitoring and other assistance, while TNC would contribute up to $300,000. Another partner, Agriculture's Clean Water Alliance, offered up to $300,000 in staff time and other assistance for monitoring. Other partners, including conservation districts and the Iowa Department of Agriculture, offered assistance as well.
While it will take much more time to make significant progress overall in cutting nutrient levels in the Boone River or the Mississippi River, the monitoring helps focus on hotspots and practices that do the most to cut nitrogen losses and improve profitability.
Both TNC and ISA believe the MRBI partnership approach, based on monitoring and adopting and adapting practices as they are proven to work, is a model that works and should be used in water quality projects in the future.
"We both appreciate and embrace information, data and applied science which informs where we do our work, and the types of strategies we employ to work with farmers on their land," says Roger Wolf of the Iowa Soybean Association.
MRBI leverages funds
The Mississippi River, America's longest at 2,300 miles, has the second-largest watershed in the world. Rolled out by NRCS in 2009, the Mississippi River Basin Initiative works through partnerships to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loading in focused watershed projects.
The MRBI leverages NRCS funds through USDA's Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, granting EQIP, CSP, and WHIP funds to watersheds that can bring local and state government funds as well as private funds or staff to the table. The initiative also commits funds from the Wetlands Restoration and Enhancement Program, to restore wetlands that also reduce nutrient losses into streams.