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New options available for wetlands

With the demand for farmland drainage increasing in South Dakota, wetland determination applications have been piling up in the Natural Resources Conservation Service offices.

Even with additional funding from the federal government for extra staff (see below), the NRCS offices simply don't have enough people to meet the sharp rise in demand.

To help relieve farmers and the NRCS from years of backlog, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association asked for the certification of thirdparty wetland determination specialists who could work as consultants directly for farmers to make a determination on their property.

The use of a third party is not free but does speed up a farmer's installation timeline considerably.

Currently, SDCGA is aware of two certified specialists in South Dakota who are available to producers:

• Brian Top, Hefty Seed Co., 605-359-5108

• Karen Cameron-Howell, Wetland Specialists Inc., 605-695-3189

Additional NRCS hires

At the request of several Midwestern states that are having similar backlog issues, the federal government issued additional funding for new hires to be dedicated solely to wetland determinations. The South Dakota NRCS office has hired seven new staff members and reassigned three other employees to work strictly on this issue.

Each of those 10 employees has been assigned to one of the following offices: Brookings, Clark, Clear Lake, Flandreau, Huron, Madison, Milbank, Mitchell, Salem and Sioux Falls. These employees have finished their federal training and are working with experienced mentors out in the field. A few are expected to be on their own prior to the year's end with the rest going solo in the spring.

South Dakota NRCS wetland determination statistics for 2011: 2,633 determinations completed, 4,750 remain outstanding. The NRCS expects to surpass 3,000 determinations before year's end. In 2010, the agency completed slightly more than 2,000.