Jun 21, 2010

USDA Unveils Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Showcase Watershed

Showcase Focuses on Increased Partnerships, Targeted Water Quality Efforts

Conewago Creek is Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Showcase Watershed, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Friday. Conewago Creek is joined by Upper Chester River in Maryland and Smith Creek in Virginia as one of three showcase watersheds to demonstrate what can be achieved by combining strong partnerships, sound science and funding to solve natural resource problems.

“Agriculture remains a key part of the solution to the Chesapeake Bay restoration,” Merrigan said as she made the announcement. “The showcase watersheds strengthen USDA’s commitment to funding priority conservation practices in places that will do the most good for water quality in the Bay and its tributaries.”

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has committed additional funding and staff for the three showcase watersheds to help demonstrate water quality improvements through expanded producer outreach efforts, use of innovative conservation practices and intensive conservation planning, implementation and monitoring.

The goal of USDA and its partners is to reach out to 100 percent of the rural landowners in these model watersheds to gauge their current level of conservation treatment and explain additional technical and financial assistance opportunities available through various conservation programs.

The three showcase watersheds are one component of USDA’s strategy to improve natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. USDA is responsible for implementing new conservation practices on four million acres of agricultural land through 2025. Farmers and forest owners throughout the watershed will have access to resources to prevent soil erosion and keep nitrogen and phosphorus out of the bay’s streams, creeks and rivers.

USDA’s work in the Chesapeake Bay is funded, in large part, by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), one of the largest single federal investments in the clean-up effort. CBWI, established in the 2008 Farm Bill, may provide up to $188 million from 2009 to 2012 to support restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.