SPRINGFIELD --- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for selecting the Upper Sangamon River Watershed in Central Illinois as one of only 14 nationally to receive federal funds under the “targeted watershed” program this year.
Each state was allowed to nominate two intrastate projects for the competitive grants. In January, Governor Blagojevich nominated the Upper Sangamon and the Kaskaskia River watersheds for consideration.
The U.S. EPA has notified the Governor that the nomination seeking $1,289,904 for the Upper Sangamon study has been approved. The study will be conducted by the Agricultural Watershed Institute in Decatur, which conducts research and education programs on policies that improve water quality in agricultural situations.
“The federal grant will support improvements of water quality in the region and also reduce unnecessary runoff from Illinois farm fields that harm aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico,” Governor Blagojevich said.
The Upper Sangamon River Watershed includes more than 900 square miles in seven counties above Lake Decatur. The Upper Sangamon River Watershed Committee, co-chaired by a farmer and a Decatur City Council member, will serve as an advisory committee to the Institute research team. This team will focus on three interrelated projects to improve water quality locally, regionally, and in the Gulf of Mexico by reducing unnecessary nutrient discharges (such as from fertilizer) from agricultural areas.
“This grant will fund a variety of approaches that will demonstrate to Illinois farmers how to better produce their crops in an environmentally friendly manner,” said Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano.
One of the projects will use GIS-based software and precision agricultural technology in on-farm trials to optimize nitrogen management.
A second study will demonstrate drainage water management and subsurface bioreactors ---underground trenches filled with woodchips acting to remove nitrogen from the tile discharge water before it is discharged into a stream.
The third study will address economic and environmental benefits from soil testing and variable rate technology to improve phosphorus management. Variable rate technology provides application of precise amounts of fertilizer based on soil testing.
Crop production accounts for approximately 87 percent of the land use in the Upper Sangamon watershed and extensive use of tile drainage has benefited agriculture but also is a source for erosion and nutrient losses.
In addition, the study will include an evaluation of market-based nitrogen trading approaches, in which agricultural “non-point” sources that significantly reduce nitrogen discharges would be able to sell “credits” to “point” sources such as wastewater treatment facilities.
Both environmental and economic results of the studies will be measured and shared and evaluated by stakeholders.