LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Waterway conservation projects in Arkansas received a nice boost in from the federal government this week.

The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Aug. 17 that $197 million had been awarded for 41 locally-led conservation projects nationally. Of the 41, Arkansas is the lead state for one project and a partner state for another.

The awards are part of the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, established to address conservation challenges, including water quality, on agricultural land.

The two projects are:

War Eagle Creek Watershed Initiative

The Beaver Watershed Alliance was awarded $2.4 million to add to its existing $2.63 million project budget to improve the watershed.

War Eagle Creek Watershed provides water for 550,000 in northwest Arkansas. The creek itself is the largest tributary in the Beaver Lake watershed. Currently, the creek puts sediment and phosphorus into several creek segments not meeting state standards.

Producers and partners will work with the initiative in updating practices to reduce the impact of sediment and phosphorus. War Eagle Creek will also undergo restoration.

Conjunctive Water Use

Ducks Unlimited, Inc. and more than 10 of its partners were awarded $7.85 million to go with its existing $10 million to improve agricultural irrigation efficiency through conjunctive water use.

Conjunctive water use is the coordinated use of ground and surface water resources. Ducks Unlimited and its partners plan to help farmers implement practices and systems that increase the availability of surface water resources for irrigation while increasing irrigation efficiency.

The aim is to reduce dependency on dwindling mid-south aquifers. Project partners will offer additional technical and financial assistance to participating producers, such as the Arkansas Department of Agriculture State tax credits to producers who improve on-farm water storage. The project will also realize climate benefits with the conversion of up to 250 farms from diesel to electric irrigation system

While the lead state is Louisiana in this project, Arkansas and Mississippi are partner states.

“Our partners are experts in their fields and understand the challenges in their own backyards,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Through RCPP we can tap into that knowledge, in partnership with producers and USDA, to come up with lasting solutions to the challenges that farmers, ranchers, and landowners face. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of public-private partnership at its best, made possible through these RCPP investments.”

The 2018 Farm Bill created the Regional Conservation Partnership Program as a stand-alone program with $300 million in annual funding. Among other requirements, projects must report on the outcomes of investments.