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Water Board to fund ag quality improvement projects

POSTED February 25, 2011 7:32 p.m.

Valley farmers will soon have access to more than $8 million in grant money for agricultural water quality improvement projects. The grant funding comes from the State Water Resources Control Board through Proposition 84, a bond approved by voters in 2006.

The goal of the funding is to improve drainage from farms and divert polluted water from entering streams and waterways. Farmers with water draining into local canals and waterways can use grant funding to build recirculation systems and holding ponds. Recirculation systems take the water drained off the edge of a farm and pump the water back onto the field. Holding ponds collect drainage, allowing the pesticides and chemicals to dissipate and settle before going into streams and canals. Farmers can also use grant funding to build drip irrigation systems to replace existing flood irrigation systems.

“This funding can be a tremendous aid to farmers of crops that have difficulty making capital improvements due to lack of profitability in recent years,” said Parry Klassen, executive director of the Coalition for Urban/ Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES), which will distribute the grant funding. Grants must be distributed through a competitive process expected to start Tuesday. Information on submitting applications can be found at www.curesworks.org.

Funding will be directed to farms in watersheds where water quality problems have been identified by agricultural entities and the Water Boards’ Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), which requires farmers to reduce pollutants in field runoff to protect rivers and streams.

“Unlike other pollutant sources, grant funding to assist farmers in addressing water quality problems has been limited,” said Ken Landau, assistant executive officer of the Central Valley Regional Water Board. “We are pleased with his opportunity and expect to see on-the-ground improvements that result in better water quality for all Central Valley residents.”

Farmers can receive 75 percent of the cost of management practices. According to Klassen, local farmers near Turlock who have farms near the Highline canal, Prairie Flower drain and the Hilmar drain could be eligible for grants. 

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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