When the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announcement was released in September 2019 regarding funding opportunities for projects to harness innovation, expand the conservation mission and demonstrate the value and efficacy of natural resources conservation, ECBID connected with State NRCS staff to inquire about opportunities for the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program.

They began coordination with the four conservation districts staff in Franklin, Lincoln, Adams, and Grant counties and explored potential partnership possibilities; including with the conservation districts, the Columbia Basin Development League, and the state department of agriculture. They also identified key differences in available NRCS programs and associated eligibility criteria; some geared toward public systems (such as District pump plant and main pipeline), as compared to private systems (for pipeline extensions), and of the separate program funding available to private landowners through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) (but was not available to ECBID).

The District participated in NRCS informational webinars for public systems and learned that the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) cannot fund a project that would most likely be considered supplementing another Federal agency’s appropriation. According to the RCPP website, the program promotes coordination of natural resource conservation activities with partners that offer value-added contributions to expand the collective ability to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns.

RCPP allows for cooperative investment with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to the resource concerns they seek to address. NRCS staff clarified that the replacement program’s delivery system projects may fit their Small Watersheds program more effectively than the RCPP’s program. So, ECBID worked with state conservation staff to evaluate options. The goal was to utilize the Odessa Subarea Special Study, National Environmental Policy Act review, the 2012 Environmental Impact Statement and 2013 Record of Decision to create a suitable Small Watershed Plan.

However, after lengthy review, State Conservation reported guidance received from their National Office informed that a new plan would be needed because NRCS was not a participating or cooperating agency to the Environmental Impact Statement. ECBID continues to research potential public project opportunities with NRCS, however, opportunities exist for private landowners at this time. In addition, says efforts are underway to create a steering funding committee.

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