Farmers and conservation leaders started the Shell Creek Watershed Improvement Group in 1999 to promote adoption of conservation practices. The watershed, running through portions of Boone, Madison, Platte and Colfax counties, is comprised of rolling hills and is prone to serious erosion, water runoff, flooding and low water quality.
Since its formation, SCWIG has worked with federal agencies like FSA and NRCS, local natural resources district, state agencies, the Nebraska Environmental Trust and even school science groups.
In the ensuing years, progress has been made in adopting practices like no-till, buffer strips, grass cover, and small in-field basin structures. But there is a long way to go in applying conservation practices and reducing soil and water runoff.
The impetus for much of the practices adopted was cost-sharing dollars, through the Environmental Trust as well as local, state and federal funds.
Additional funds are in jeopardy. "The closing of the entire watershed for cost-share incentives is fast approaching," says Eric Smith in the NRCS office in Columbus.
In fact, Dec. 31 is the deadline to sign up for incentive payments that were provided through current grants, including one from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
A complete list of all the best management practices in the watershed can be found on this website: www.shellcreek.org.
The SCWIG, however, is allowing landowners and operators until Sept. 30, 2013, to complete practices for which they have already applied.
If you're unsure if you have an expiring contract with the group, contact Mellissa Foreman, SCWIG coordinator. And she is asking you to contact her if you completed a project so that payment can be made.
The SCWIG is trying to determine the direction it needs to take from now on, according to Foreman.
To evaluate the progress so far and to decide what still needs to be done to reach a higher level of water quality and flood control, it has applied for a Section 319 grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to fund a review of the watershed. If the grant is approved, SCWIG will work with an environmental firm to do the assessment.
"The findings from this assessment will give the group information to revise its management plan and target areas of the watershed that still need conservation work completed," Foreman says.
After the assessment, members of the group will review it with the public. The entire process will take about two years.
"The group is not going to dissolve because of this assessment," she adds. "Members will still be working together and working toward finding what benefits the watershed most."
You can contact Foreman at 402-564-0506 or 402-454-6348, or email at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Shell Creek Watershed Improvement Group