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Secretary Vilsack Announces 41 Watersheds to Take Part in Mississippi River Basin Initiative


Initiative Will Provide Approximately $320 Million in USDA Assistance In Basin Area

WASHINGTON, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 41 watersheds in 12 states, known as Focus Areas, have been selected to participate in a new initiative to improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi River Basin. The selected watersheds cover over 42 million acres, or more than 5 percent of the Basin’s land area.

“The USDA is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and State and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the tens of millions of people who live in the Mississippi River Basin, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative will help” Vilsack said. “Today’s announcement is another step toward achieving this goal, and I encourage as many eligible participants as possible to join us in this major conservation effort.”

The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), which was announced on September 24, 2009, will provide approximately $320 million in USDA financial assistance over the next four years for voluntary projects in priority watersheds in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin. MRBI will help producers implement conservation and management practices that prevent, control and trap nutrient runoff from agricultural land.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manages the initiative. NRCS State Conservationists from the 12 watershed states selected the watersheds with guidance from State Technical Committees and state water quality agencies. Selections were based on the potential for managing nitrogen and phosphorus -- nutrients associated with water quality problems in the Basin -- while maintaining agricultural productivity and benefiting wildlife.

Next, smaller watershed projects will be selected through a competitive process under NRCS’ Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI). NRCS assistance will be leveraged with contributions from partners, expanding the capacity available to improve water quality throughout the Basin.

Three requests for project proposals will be announced in the next several weeks, including one for CCPI. Funding for CCPI projects will come from NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.

Two other requests for proposals will fund projects through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program and Conservation Innovation Grants. For information about these programs, visit .

State(s) Watershed

Arkansas/Missouri - Cache

Arkansas - Lake Conway-Point Remove

Arkansas - L’Anguille

Arkansas/Missouri - Lower St. Francis

Illinois - Lower Illinois - Senachwine Lake

Illinois - Upper Illinois

Illinois - Vermilion (Upper Mississippi River sub-basin)

Illinois/Indiana - Vermilion (Upper Ohio River sub-basin)

Indiana - Eel

Indiana - Upper East Fork White

Indiana - Wildcat

Indiana/Ohio - Upper Wabash

Iowa - Boone

Iowa - Maquoketa

Iowa - North Raccoon

Iowa/Minnesota - Upper Cedar

Kentucky/Tennessee - Bayou De Chien-Mayfield

Kentucky - Licking

Kentucky - Lower Green

Louisiana - Mermentau

Louisiana/Arkansas - Bayou Macon

Louisiana/Arkansas - Boeuf River

Minnesota - Middle Minnesota

Minnesota - Root

Minnesota - Sauk

Mississippi - Big Sunflower

Mississippi/Louisiana/Arkansas - Deer-Steele

Mississippi - Upper Yazoo

Missouri/Iowa - Lower Grand

Missouri - North Fork Salt

Missouri - South Fork Salt

Missouri/Arkansas - Little River Ditches

Ohio/Indiana - Upper Great Miami

Ohio - Upper Scioto

Tennessee - Forked Deer

Tennessee/Kentucky - Obion

Tennessee - South Fork Obion

Tennessee/Kentucky - Red River

Wisconsin/Illinois - Sugar

Wisconsin/Illinois - Upper Rock

Wisconsin/Illinois - Pecatonica

For information about the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, including eligibility requirements, please visit the MRBI web page at or your USDA Service Center. A map of the project area is available the MRBI Programs webpage.

Subscribe to NRCS news releases and get other agency information at or contact NRCS Public Affairs at 202-720-3210.

NRCS celebrates its 75th year of service in 2010.


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