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Agricultural News


Oklahoma Recognized by EPA for Success in Reducing Nutrient Levels in Waterways

Mon, 18 Apr 2011 5:30:43 CDT

Oklahoma Recognized by EPA for Success in Reducing Nutrient Levels in Waterways The dedicated work of farmers, ranchers and other landowners to control non-point source pollution in Oklahoma by using voluntary programs administered by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and local conservation districts is paying off according to new water quality numbers recently released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recent analysis of nonpoint source pollution reduction numbers from across the nation shows that Oklahoma for the second year in a row ranks among the top five states in reducing nutrients from our streams and rivers and for the third year in a row ranks among the top ten states in nutrient reduction work according to Senator Ron Justice (R-Chickasha), Chair of the Oklahoma State Senate Natural Resources Appropriations Sub-Committee.


“We should all take pride in this accomplishment,” Justice said. “This shows what can happen when we work together to solve problems. When we respect folk’s private property rights and when the State and Federal Governments give them the financial and technical assistance they need to make changes, we can accomplish great things. ”


Representative Phil Richardson (R-Minco), Chairman of the House Agriculture, Wildlife and Environment Committee agreed, noting that this continued success in water quality improvement shows that the voluntary approach used by the State and utilizing the partnership of the Conservation Commission, local conservation districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working well in Oklahoma.


“By using the delivery system consisting of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, local conservation districts and NRCS, we have been able to use Federal Clean Water Act dollars to partner with landowners in ways that are starting to turn the corner on some of our toughest water quality issues,” Richardson said. “We’re not only controlling pollution, but we are also taking into consideration the financial situation of the local landowner-something that the EPA seems to be reluctant to do. Clearly we have a great model here in Oklahoma.”


Don Armes (R-Faxon), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Appropriations Sub-committee agreed. “This approach shows that production agriculture and protecting the environment don’t have to be at cross purposes,” Armes said. “I can only hope that the federal government and other states will take notice of what we are doing here in Oklahoma.”


Water quality numbers released at the beginning of March show that nearly 440,000 pounds of nitrogen, 150,000 lbs of phosphorous and 6,000 tons of sediment were reduced from Oklahoma’s water last year. When reviewing these numbers in comparison with the levels of non-point source pollution reduced by other states, Oklahoma was shown to be one of the top five states in the nation in nutrient reductions for the second year in a row. This will be the third consecutive year that Oklahoma has ranked in the top ten among states in nonpoint source control while receiving less than two percent of all Federal EPA non-point source pollution funds.


One of the Conservation leaders that spoke to reporters on Ag Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol last week was Clay Pope, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. Pope told reporters that the success in non point source pollution is similar to the success that we are seeing in the lack of dust storms that are sweeping the plains this season despite being as dry as anytime since the 1920s. Pope says conservation efforts that were born out of the desperation of the Dust Bowl have headed those dust storms off at the pass- and the work in the state's watersheds is starting to yield the same sort of impressive results. You can hear Pope's comments on the parallels by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.


According to Jim Reese, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, this water quality success was achieved through voluntary cost-share efforts similar to those used by Conservation to address soil erosion since the dust bowl of the 1930’s. Through funding from the EPA Clean Water Act section 319 program, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) Conservation Reserve Enhanced Program (CREP), farm bill conservation programs administered by the NRCS, state conservation programs administered by the Conservation Commission and with local leadership from conservation districts, Reese said farmers, ranchers and other landowners are working to protect our natural resources.


“In the past, the government learned that it was best to work cooperatively with landowners to address environmental concerns.” Reese said. “By helping individuals with technical and financial assistance, farmers, ranchers and other landowners are willing to put their own money out of their own pocket into cost-share projects designed to address concerns like water quality. This approach worked to tame the dust bowl and this recent recognition by the EPA shows it can also work to address non-point source pollution.”


Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment Gary Sherrer said the success of this voluntary, cooperative approach should serve as a model for other states and the federal government as they look at issues concerning water quality in other areas of the country.


“From the Chesapeake Bay to the Mississippi River Basin, water quality is a major issue throughout the country.” Sherrer said. “In Oklahoma I believe we have a model that can help point the way to addressing these serious concerns through programs that work to reduce nonpoint source pollution without driving agriculture producers out of business. These numbers prove that we are moving in the right direction in Oklahoma when it comes to water quality and we hope the EPA and other states will recognize what can be done when landowners and the government work cooperatively to solve these kinds of problems.”   



   
   

Ron Hays Reports on Conservation Success Story that Continues to Unfold in Oklahoma
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