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Watershed Committee of the Ozarks receives grant to work with private landowners, improve water quality

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 4:42 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -A large grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks improve our waterways, by working with local landowners.

After about six months of waiting, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks learned last week that it is receiving $2.1 million through the federal government’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

“It’s the largest grant we’ve ever received, and we’re excited because that $2.1 million is part of a public-private partnership,” says Mike Kromrey, director of the Watershed Committee. “So that will actually be about about a 1 to 1 match. So this will be more like a $4 million project.”

The Watershed Committee and its nine partners will work with landowners and producers along the upper James River.

“So we consider that to be everything above Lake Springfield. And so not only should it impact the health of Lake Springfield, but we get a lot of our drinking water from the upper James River,” Kromrey says.

One of the partners in the grant is Greene County. “Everybody thinks we’re the regulator, but we’re also regulated by the feds and the state,” says Tim Davis, Greene County environmental compliance manager. “And so this helps us meet some of our permit requirements for water quality.”

To protect water quality, the project will help land owners do things like plant trees along waterways, put up fences for rotational grazing, provide alternative livestock watering and put up fences to keep livestock out of rivers and creeks.

“To help the streams heal, give them alternative watering sources, so that they don’t have to have access to the streams, all on a volunteer basis,” Davis says. “So if they want to try to implement those practices, they can. If they don’t, they don’t have to. So it really is a win-win for everybody.”

They’ll use existing project models, but the grant will allow them to provide the opportunity to more people and make a bigger impact on the James River.

“The impacts that we make upstream can impact everybody,” Kromrey says.

The Watershed Committee says it will now begin about a year long planning process to determine how to specifically use the grant.

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