New agri­cul­tural in­cen­tive pro­grams for healthy rivers

Dorchester Star - - NEWS -

EAS­TON — En­vi­sion the Chop­tank is a part­ner­ship that works to find col­lab­o­ra­tive so­lu­tions to re­store fish­able, swimmable waters to the Chop­tank River while work­ing to meet the needs of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. With sup­port from the Na­tional Fish and Wildlife Foun­da­tion, En­vi­sion the Chop­tank is of­fer­ing in­cen­tive money to farm­ers to ac­cel­er­ate the im­ple­men­ta­tion of clean wa­ter prac­tices in the Chop­tank River wa­ter­shed. Th­ese prac­tices in­clude wet­lands, grass and forested buf­fers, and biore­ac­tors. The in­cen­tives are de­signed to thwart com­mon bar­ri­ers to im­ple­men­ta­tion by pro­vid­ing more flex­i­ble pay­ments, op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­duce wait-times, as­sis­tance with landowner costs as­so­ci­ated with fed­eral and state cost-share pro­grams, and op­tions to in­stall prac­tices out­side of cost-share pro­grams.

The grass buf­fer pro­gram pro­vides a flex­i­ble width op­tion (10-50 feet), no mow­ing re­stric­tions, and a shorter time com­mit­ment (three years). Par­tic­i­pants re­ceive $900 – $1,300 per acre. This pro­gram of­fers a great op­por­tu­nity for landown­ers to try out a buf­fer be­fore hav­ing to make a long-term com­mit­ment with a cost­share pro­gram.

The forested buf­fer pro­gram is sim­i­lar to state and fed­eral pro­grams but ex­pands the op­por­tu­nity to in­clude up­land farm ar­eas that are no longer op­er­a­tional due to the in­stal­la­tion of other con­ser­va­tion prac­tices, ir­ri­ga­tion chal­lenges, or the squar­ing-off of fields. Par­tic­i­pants re­ceive $2,000 per acre.

The wet­land restora­tion pro­gram of­fers $3,000 per acre to use flex­i­bly to ac­com­mo­date landowner needs. Funds can cover an en­gi­neer­ing de­sign that helps ex­pe­dite the project through the Soil Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict process. Al­ter­na­tively, funds can off­set the landowner por­tion of state or fed­eral cost-share pro­grams. And fi­nally, funds can sup­port both de­sign and con­struc­tion if cost-share pro­grams are not be­ing used.

Biore­ac­tors are now an ap­proved cost-share prac­tice through the Mary­land Agri­cul­tural Wa­ter Qual­ity Cost­Share (MACS) Pro­gram. To fur­ther in­cen­tivize this far­mand wa­ter-friendly prac­tice, En­vi­sion is of­fer­ing to cover the landowner por­tion of the cost-share, or 12.5% of the to­tal cost.

Agri­cul­tural landown­ers with prop­erty in the Chop­tank River wa­ter­shed and an in­ter­est in grass or tree buf­fers, wet­land restora­tion, or biore­ac­tors, may be el­i­gi­ble for th­ese in­cen­tives. Ar­eas within the Chop­tank River wa­ter­shed in­clude por­tions of Dorch­ester, Caro­line, Tal­bot, and Queen Anne’s County and Kent County, Del. For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Whit­ley Gray at wgray@shoreriver­s.org or 443-385-0511 ext. 202.

SHORE RIVERS

Grass buf­fer along a stream in an agri­cul­tural field.

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