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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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"CREP" and Clean Water
by Rick Woodley, Klamath Soil and Water Conservation manager

published 5 Jan. 05 Klamath Courier, courier@centurytel.net

In the last article, the role of the Conservation District was explained. To be more specific, in future commentaries I will break down in simple terms (I hope) some of the programs available to landowners and how you might benefit from enrolling your property. Clearly not all programs will work for the individual landowner. There are some of you who would rather lose a body part than participate in a Government sponsored program of any sort. I will tell you this, many of the USDA and other programs are excellent, however they often come with an incredible amount of "baggage". If the expression "jumping through all the hoops" makes any sense to you, then you may be ready to attempt to fill out an application form. If you live long enough and can stand to sift through all the reams of paper, you just may find buried in the mound, a very workable program for your farm or ranch.

Some conservation programs provide several options, while some are quite singular in their focus. Some provide one time payments for conservation work, some provide ongoing payments for a specified number of years and some are done on a cost share basis. The bottom line is, until you call us or stop by our office for a visit, you will never know which programs you qualify for, much less understand them. This article will deal with the newest program offered by the Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District (KSWCD).

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program or "CREP" as it is generally referred to, is now available to landowners. The bad news is that for quite a long time, landowners signed up for the CREP program, and while intentions were good, no one was available to work with applicants or administer the program. The good news is the KSWCD now has on staff, a technician who is qualified and available to work with you.

The CREP Program is available to assist farmers and ranchers with the financial burden of installing certain conservation practices on their property to benefit "ALL" downstream water users. It doesnít cover all the costs, and it certainly isnít going to make anybody rich! The primary focus of the program is restoration of riparian corridors, with very specific program objectives. Those objectives are to:

1. Restore 100% of the area enrolled for the riparian forest practice (CP-22) to a proper functioning condition in terms of distribution and growth of woody plant species;

2. Reduce sediment and nutrient pollution from agricultural lands adjacent to the riparian buffers by more than 50%;

3. Establish adequate vegetation on enrolled riparian areas to stabilize 90% of stream banks under normal non-flood water conditions;

4. Reduce the rate of stream water heating to ambient levels by planting adequate vegetation on all riparian buffer lands;

5. Provide a contributing mechanism for farmers and ranchers to meet the water quality requirements established under federal law and under Oregonís SB1010 agricultural water quality laws; and

6. Provide adequate riparian buffers on 2,000 stream miles to permit natural restoration of stream hydraulic and geomorphic characteristics, which meet habitat requirements of threatened or endangered fish.

The list contains a lot of fancy words and terms, however, any reasonable person reviewing those six objectives quickly will realize this is a program with far-reaching benefits for farmers, ranchers, livestock, fish, wildlife, cities and other urban areas, and all the citizens of the State of OregonÖ even into California!

The KSWCD CREP technician, Lee Ashford, puts it this way, "I like to think of CREP as a different kind of "set aside" program; rather than being just another program to set aside marginal agricultural lands. It is a program in which all sides of the so-called water wars can "set aside" their differences of opinion, and work together for the good of all".

CREP is designed to help you with YOUR project. If you are a farmer, rancher, grower, producer, agriculturalist, or whatever name you prefer to call yourself, you already are a conservationist. Your livelihood depends on your stewardship of the land. This is a fact YOU already know, but one which may be lost on others. Your land is like money in the bank; you live off the interest, and if you start dipping into the capital your return will diminish. In some cases CREP can help you make some improvements to your land base, which ultimately can improve your bottom line. But far beyond the borders of your property, CREP has an impact all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Everybody and everything along the way will benefit from your project, and CREP is a program that provides you with the opportunity to recover some of the expenses!

CREP has some fairly specific eligibility requirements. It only applies to riparian corridors on active crop land or marginal pastureland, and it must have been owned or operated by the applicant for at least the previous 12 months.

CREP only covers certain practices. It provides 75% cost share to build fences to exclude livestock from riparian areas, and to establish a riparian buffer strip of native or naturalized trees, shrubs and grasses. It pays an annual rental payment on the acres excluded through the program, and is a long-term contract ranging from 10 to 15 years, during which time the excluded ground must be excluded from any and all economic use. To make that loss of use more palatable, CREP pays a higher annual rental rate than the CRP program from which it was developed.

Please contact the KWSCD about this program. For information, please call 541-883-6932 extension 116 and visit with Lee Ashford, the guy with the answers to ALL your questions.





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