NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program Helps Rural Communities Following Flood

NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program Helps Rural Communities Following Flood

Sadly and understandably there is much talk about what has happened as a result of recent disasters in Oklahoma, such as flooding and tornadoes. Recovery efforts are underway in many areas.

However, stop and think about what could happen that poses a threat. That’s where the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program can possibly come into play.

The EWP allows the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish non-traditional partnerships with sponsors to address serious impacts resulting from natural disasters. The program requires NRCS to work quickly with local sponsors to protect public infrastructure and prevent environmental hazards. All projects must demonstrate that they reduce threats to life and property. Projects must be economically, environmentally, and socially sound, while meeting acceptable engineering standards.

Smithsonian's "Water/Ways" traveling exhibition comes to Oklahoma

Smithsonian's "Water/Ways" traveling exhibition comes to Oklahoma

The traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, “Water/Ways,” examines water as an environmental necessity and an important cultural element. The Oklahoma Blue Thumb Program, a water quality education program of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission's Water Quality Division, will be on hand as this exhibition makes its way through Oklahoma beginning this month and continuing into April 2020. 

President Donald Trump declared a disaster in Oklahoma

Federal assistance available to those affected by severe storms, tornadoes and floods in Tulsa, Muskogee and Wagoner counties

Excerpt from the Tulsa World.
By Kelsy Schlotthauer | Tulsa World | Jun 3, 2019

Assistance is available in many forms to individuals and business owners affected by the storms beginning May 7, including grants for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the declaration Sunday, thanking Trump for his support and “quick action.”

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and local emergency managers to schedule damage assessments in other affected counties as early as this week, the release states. Teams will survey damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities.

Funding is available statewide on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures, and to state, tribal and local governments and some private nonprofit organizations in Tulsa, Muskogee and Wagoner counties for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including overtime pay for first responders.

Emergency protective measures limited to direct federal assistance will also be provided to Haskell, Kay, LeFlore, Noble, Osage, Pawnee and Sequoyah counties.

SBA loans available for recovery, improvement projectsBusinesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery, equipment, inventory and other business assets, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration news release.

SBA also offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs for small businesses, agricultural cooperatives, businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private nonprofit organizations. Economic injury assistance is available to businesses regardless of property damage, the release states.

Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace real estate, and homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.

Business owners and homeowners can also obtain additional funds to help with the cost of improvement projects to prevent the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.

Interest rates can be as low as 4% for businesses, 2.75% for private nonprofit organizations and 1.938% for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years, according to the release.

Those wishing to be considered for all forms of disaster assistance must first contact FEMA at disasterassistance.gov. When Federal-State Disaster Recovery Centers open throughout the affected areas, SBA will provide one-on-one assistance to disaster loan applicants.

Additional information and details on the location of disaster recovery centers is available by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955.

Apply for assistance

Residents and business owners who suffered losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362), or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired.

The toll-free numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week until further notice. 

Oklahoma's State and Federal Leaders Show Support of Flood Control Dams

Oklahoma's State and Federal Leaders Show Support of Flood Control Dams

Thinking ahead is important, but acting head is often critical.

From the U.S. Capitol to the state Capitol, Oklahoma leaders acted in support of Oklahoma flood control dams well before the recent historic rains.

Last week, Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law the general appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY'20). The FY2020 Budget includes $1.5 million for rural dam improvement. This will go toward the operation and maintenance of flood control dams.

In April, the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority (the “Authority”) sold $5.116 million in bonds on behalf of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) for the rehabilitation of some flood control structures in the state. The Oklahoma Legislature came up with the bond proposal of $5.116 million. Governor Stitt and Secretary John Budd signed the bond purchase agreement on April 16, 2019.

Conservation Districts Help with Flood Control In Oklahoma, Rep. Grego Praises State's Watershed Structures

  Conservation Districts Help with Flood Control In Oklahoma, Rep. Grego Praises State's Watershed Structures

State Rep. Jim Grego, R-Wilburton, a former member of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, praises the success of the 2,107 watershed structures throughout Oklahoma.

“This past week, many areas of Oklahoma have received record rainfall,” Grego said. “While widespread flooding is happening, we must not lose sight of how much flooding is being prevented by our watershed structures.”

Oklahoma Watershed Dams Historically Significant and Critical to the Future

Oklahoma Watershed Dams Historically Significant and Critical to the Future

There's a chance that almost 1,400 of Oklahoma's watershed dams will have beaten Larry Caldwell to retirement by next year.

Overall, the State has 2,107 such flood control dams protecting homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, as well as crops, farmland, and ranch land. The "however" to this is that by 2020, 1,380 dams will have passed their 50-year design life.

The reality is they can’t retire, they just need some remediation.

Oklahoma Conservation deeply rooted and getting stronger according to U.S. Census of Agriculture

The recently released 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture detailed in part that less and less of Oklahoma’s soil is whisked away by its powerful winds.

A good anchor will do that.

“The Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) and local Districts felt sure the actual findings of the Census would show that the roots of conservation in Oklahoma are strengthening. The report did that and so much more,” said Trey Lam, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. “The hundreds of field days, demonstration farms and educational events created even more change in no till and cover crop adoption rates than we expected. Oklahoma farmers and ranchers ‘get it.’ By adopting a system that protects and restores the productivity of our soil they can improve their bottom line and leave their land in better shape for generations to come.”

Anticipating the release of the Ag Census information was reminiscent of report card day back in school. Oklahoma farmers and ranchers in cooperation with the Conservation Partnership had put in the time and hard work to increase Soil Health practices. The Ag Census is the report card on whether all that work paid dividends.

Lam, along with others such as Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Gary O’Neill, are excited to share that report card.

The 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture – released by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) – showed that in Oklahoma, compared to 2012, there was a 24 percent increase in the number of farms using cover crops, a 51 percent increase in acres using cover crops, and a 29 percent decrease in intensive tillage practices. On a national scale, the report shows that Oklahoma is seventh in the nation for the largest decrease in cropland acreage using conventional tillage practices.

O’Neill said, “Reduced tillage and cover crops are two of the primary principles of Soil Health systems. These data trends show that Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are recognizing the benefits from implementing Soil Health Systems on their lands.”

Jimmy Emmons of Leedey, along with wife Ginger, received Oklahoma’s first Leopold Conservation Award in 2018. The award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation by American ranchers, farmers and foresters. Jimmy Emmons also waited anxiously for the release of the report.

“I was expecting the no till and cover cropping numbers to be up, but not that much,” he said. “Less tillage is a wonderful number. The report is so exciting because it shows all the hard work we have done promoting no till and covers is working.”

The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Even small plots of land - whether rural or urban - growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year. The Census of Agriculture, taken only once every five years, looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures.

The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation. Through the Census of Agriculture, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture and can influence decisions that will shape the future of U.S. agriculture.

“I definitely think this shows that Oklahoma has embraced conservation and is a true partner with a lot of the organizations around the state that are putting conservation on the ground within the Ag community,” said Troy Marshall, the Oklahoma State Statistician for USDA NASS.

Most report cards leave a little room to build on. While statistics improved in cropland with reduced till practices and in cropland with intensive till practices, there was a decrease in cropland with no-till practices, and Emmons said “hopefully (that) will change as people understand cover cropping.”

Lam believes the root system of conservation in Oklahoma will only continue to strengthen.

“The pace of change should only increase from this point forward,” Lam said. “The momentum created over the last few years by NRCS and OCC programs make the future bright for natural resource conservation in our state.”

Conservation District Employees Gather Information and Ideas at Statewide Training

Conservation District Employees Gather Information and Ideas at Statewide Training

The training, made possible by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) and the OACD Employees, included topics such as Oklahoma's state funded locally-led conservation cost-share program, director elections and appointments, basic financial management, soil health and other education resources, surplus and sale of equipment and property, pesticide applicator Continuing Education Unit (CEU) Training and several other items.

Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award Seeks Nominees

Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award Seeks Nominees

Know an Oklahoma rancher, farmer or forester who goes above and beyond in the care and management of natural resources? Nominate them for the 2019 Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award®.

Sand County Foundation, the nation’s leading voice for private land conservation, presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 13 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Oklahoma the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Noble Research Institute, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, and ITC Holdings Corp.