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Funding now available to improve Clinch-Powell water quality

STAFF REPORT • Sep 19, 2017 at 3:05 PM

NASVILLE — Farmers in Hancock County and Claiborne county can now apply for funding through USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to install conservation practices that will enhance agricultural productivity while also improving local water quality in priority Clinch-Powell Watersheds.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to help eligible farmers in Tennessee’s Hancock and Claiborne counties, and Virginia’s Lee, Scott, and Russell counties plan and implement agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Now in its second year, the $4.5 million public-private partnership project has already helped more than 45 producers support regional water-quality protection efforts through streambank stabilization, alternative water systems and livestock exclusion practices.

The Clinch and Powell River watersheds are critical natural areas with remarkable biodiversity. In addition to providing drinking water for local communities, the rivers are home to more than 48 vulnerable aquatic species, including 29 rare species of freshwater mussels. These rivers and their surrounding watersheds are also crucial to the region’s economy, supporting agriculture, outdoor recreation, tourism and other important industries.

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program puts local partners in the driver’s seat to accomplish environmental goals by empowering communities and landowners to be more invested in innovative conservation solutions,” adds Pat Gibson, NRCS Tennessee State Conservationist. “The Clinch and Powell Rivers Watershed project will draw on these partnerships to develop new ways to protect our natural resources in Tennessee.”

To ensure the most efficient use of funding and time, The Nature Conservancy is using the most up-to-date science to prioritize projects within the five-county RCPP area. This practice helps guarantee that the farmers who receive funding through this program will have the greatest possible positive impact on water quality.

“The Nature Conservancy is thrilled to be working alongside our local, neighboring farmers to improve water quality in the Clinch and Powell rivers, as clean water is crucial to our region’s environmental and economic health,” said Ronald Lambert, Nature Conservancy Land Protection Specialist. “Thanks to the participation of NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Clinch Powell RC&D and other partners, this program will help landowners both protect their water and increase production and heard health.”

“Landowners in the Clinch-Powell Watershed appreciate the assistance in improving our most valuable resources, soil and water,” states local farmer and RCPP program participant Tony Miles.

Production farmers who are in the RCPP Project area and would like more information on how to enroll in the program should contact their local NRCS office: Hancock County: 423-272-0217; Claiborne County: 423-626-3811; Lee County: 276-346-1531; Scott County: 276-386-9241; and Russell County: 276-889-4650.

For more information on the Clinch-Powell RCPP project, visit www.tn.nrcs.usda.gov or www.va.nrcs.usda.gov. To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA service center.

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