$7.5 Million in Technical and Financial Assistance Awarded to the Yakima Basin
On the third try, the Kittitas County Conservation District finally succeeded in securing funding through the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The “Yakima Integrated Plan – Toppenish to Teanaway” was one of 88 projects across the nation to be approved in December 2016. More than $7.5 million will be dedicated to projects and programs in irrigated crop lands and grazing areas of Kittitas County and the Yakama Reservation. The proposal includes $7.58 million in contributions to the project from state, local and sources.
The project is a partnership between the Yakama Nation and the KCCD to provide assistance to landowners and producers on the Yakama Reservation and in Kittitas County. It may seem like strange combination for a proposal, given the geographic separation of the priority areas. “In previous rounds, we had a strategy, in that the Yakama Nation was applying for assistance for on-reservation work and we were applying for assistance with off reservation work, but we were all working together under the umbrella of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan” said Anna Lael, District Manager. Program rules are different on and off reservation, so it seemed logical to keep them separate. After the second round, feedback was received indicating that the proposals were essentially competing against one another and that a combined single proposal would be a better idea. “So, we took our second round proposal and the Yakama Nation’s second round proposal and put them together in a single project and applied again,” she said. Only one lead partner is allowed in the proposal process, so the Yakama Nation agreed to fill that role. Of the total funding award, more than $6.2 million is dedicated to Kittitas County programs and projects.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) implements RCPP conservation program contracts and easement agreements through four existing NRCS programs authorities.
Local producers who are or have worked with the NRCS Field Office in Ellensburg will recognize the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This the program that typically is utilized for sprinkler conversion projects and other on-farm efficiencies. Over the last several years, the EQIP program has funded 10% or less of the applications each year. The new funding through RCPP will approximately triple the amount of local EQIP funding available for the next four years. The easement programs are not as widely known here. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) includes funding for farmland preservation as well as wetland reserve projects. The Healthy Forest Reserve Program is new to the state, although it has been implemented in Oregon. Together the easement programs have approximately $1.4 million in funding through this proposal.
Through RCPP, the KCCD also requested technical assistance funding which will allow KCCD staff to assist with sign-ups, ranking of applications, conservation plan activities and cultural resources surveys and reviews. This means that KCCD staff will assist producers directly, an effort that will increase the efficiency of the application process through NRCS.
In addition to the KCCD and the Yakama Nation, partners contributing funding for this project include:
Other partners providing assistance include: