USDA Grants Hit State's Top Conservation Concerns

USDA Grants Hit State's Top Conservation Concerns

Over $2.5 million will fund innovative approaches for waste-to-energy production, environmental markets, and reforestation, says state leader of the Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service.

State Conservationist Terry Cosby recently announced three 2011 Conservation Innovation Grants involving Ohio. An investment of over $2.5 million to three organizations will advance innovative conservation technologies and approaches that address a broad array of existing and emerging natural resource issues.

"I'm very excited about the opportunities these grants bring for addressing some of Ohio's most pressing natural resource issues," says Cosby, who is with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.  "Water quality degradation from excessive nutrients has had a major impact on Grand Lake St. Marys.  The $1 million grant to the Quasar Energy Group to construct an anaerobic digester in the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed has great potential to benefit all of the people who depend on the land and the lake for their livelihood." 

The Quasar Energy Group grant will demonstrate the effectiveness of cutting edge technology to remove phosphorus from manure and export the concentrated phosphorus recovered in the process from the watershed.  A majority of the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed lies within the greater Mississippi River Basin.  Ultimately, addressing the phosphorus loading in Grand Lake will also have an impact as far away as the Gulf of Mexico. 

The second grant involving Ohio was awarded to the Electrical Power Research Institute for the purpose of pilot testing interstate water quality trading in the Ohio River Basin.  This grant for $1 million also involves four surrounding States, including Indiana, West Virginia, Illinois, and Kentucky.  Water quality credit trading provides a mechanism for a party needing to discharge nutrients to purchase the right to discharge from another party which has applied conservation measures to improve water quality.

The American Chestnut Foundation received the third grant involving Ohio for $541,136.  Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia are the other States benefitting from this grant.  The American chestnut once comprised a quarter of the eastern hardwood forest.  In the mid-20th century, the trees had been decimated by a non-native fungus, chestnut blight.  Reforestation of reclaimed mine land with blight resistant American chestnut and other high quality hardwoods will be carried out with this grant. 

In addition to these nationally funded Conservation Innovation Grants, CIGs are also funded by Ohio NRCS.  An announcement of the State CIG grant recipients will be made later this week. 

The NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Grants are awarded to State and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations, and individuals. NRCS uses CIG to invest in innovative, on-the-ground conservation technologies and approaches with the goal of wide-scale adoption to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and environmental markets, among other natural resource issues. 

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