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Soil & Water District Commissioners Oppose County Supervisors’ Resolution

By Staff | Jul 21, 2011

Dear Sirs,

The Palo Alto Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has reviewed and discussed the Emmetsburg newspaper article of May 5, 2011, Supervisors Adopt Buffer Strip Resolution. In review of the article’s information, the SWCD Commissioners would like to voice opposition the action that the Supervisors have taken in this resolution.

The action of defining buffer strips and CRP grassed areas next to a drainage ditch as a nuisance due to not being able to clean during a specific time of the year is misguided. It is also a poor choice when faced with the problems incurred due to runoff downstream from our area. The buffer strips and?CRP serve a purpose as to CLEAN the surface water runoff before it reaches any larger body of water. A healthy grassed buffer area will clean or prevent chemicals and sediment from reaching important upstream areas that are essential to water quality and soil preservation. Below are some reliable, printed facts on how the grassed areas CLEAN the water and prevent sediment travel:

*1 Valuable information on conservation buffers is still flowing from Bear Creek in Story County, Iowa. A riparian buffer first established in 1990 on the Ron Risdal farm has been studied extensively for ten years; ten major findings have been gleaned from the research at the site. Thorough monitoring by scientists at Iowa State University and the ISU?Agro ecology Issues Team of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture has found buffers in that location can:

cut sediment in surface runoff as much as 90%

cut nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff as much as 80%

entice and support 5 times as many bird species as row cropped or heavily grazed land

allow water to infiltrate 5 times faster than row cropped or heavily grazed land

remove up to 90% of groundwater nitrate in some landscapes

Cut stream bank erosion by as much as 80% from row cropped or heavily grazed land

reach maximum efficiency for sediment removal in as little as 5 years

reach maximum efficiency for nutrient removal in 10-15 years

increase soil organic carbon up to 66%

be most effective at upper reaches of a watershed

*1 www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/news/ successstories/successstories.html

*2 Iowa State University research shows a native grass strip just 10 feet wide captures 60 percent of the sediment. A 20-foot strip retains 80 percent of the sediment. Nitrate moving from field edge to stream edge through the buffer is reduced by more than 90 percent.

*2 Waterway filter strips protect soil and water, by John Rodecap, ISU Extension project coordinator, MWP

The action of defining CRP Filter strips and other CRP practices adjacent to a drainage ditch as a nuisance, due to not being able to clean during a specific time of the year to avoid the primary nesting period, is a decision that should be reconsidered. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has specific rules that prevent the disturbance of the cover during the primary nesting period, which is May 15 to Aug. 1. Our concern is that the filter strips provide a valuable function in preventing sediment from entering the ditches that you are trying to maintain! We feel that the landowners of the county should not be subject to penalties from the FSA for maintenance activities that still could be performed during the other 9 1/2 months of the year outside of the primary nesting period. We would suggest that during the contracting process that you specify that the contractor complete the work in a period beginning Aug. 1 and being completed no later than May 15 of the following year. This should still allow ample time for work to be completed, while allowing landowners the freedom to enroll their lands into the CRP that benefits all of us, without the fear of penalties by the action of the Supervisors.


Palo Alto Soil &?Water Conservation District Commissioners

(signed)?Joel Horsley, Chairman

Mike Kollasch, Vice Chair

Ken Ebeling, Commissioner

Ray Brown, Commissioner

Clint Young, Commissioner