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James River board seeks to reduce pollution from cattle

Cattle stand in the water and on the bank of the James River on Tuesday near 243rd Street north of Mitchell. (Chris Huber/Republic)

YANKTON -- The James River Water Development District board approved $50,000 Tuesday for further enhancements to the Conservation Reserve Program.

Producers have two years to apply for funding through the district's program to improve the condition of creeks, streams and rivers.

"What I'm trying to do here is to bait the hook a little more to encourage producers to fence off these creeks and get cattle out of the creeks," said Dave Bartel, interim director of the district. He and the board members met at the Best Western Kelly Inn in Yankton.

The James River Water Development District promotes conservation, development and proper management of water resources and provides technical, organizational and financial assistance to perspective and existing projects. Funds are collected from taxpayers in the district, which includes Brown, Marshall, Spink, Beadle, Sanborn, Hanson, Davison, Hutchinson and Yankton counties, and portions of Aurora and Miner counties along the James River from the North Dakota border to Yankton.

Bartel said he's working to implement the CRP enhancement program from Beadle County north to Brown and Marshall counties.

The program has been working well going toward the south from Sanborn County to Yankton County, but needs a boost to move forward north.

"I was told there was no money and no need to do implementation to go north," Bartel said. "I think there is a need and there's good work in Beadle County all the way to Brown County."

The funding is meant to entice producers to fence off waterways and help pay for watering systems for pastures.

The district board will approve funding requests up to 40 percent of the total cost of a project, Bartel said.

"We pay our share of that up front and NRCS (the Natural Resources Conservation Service) would monitor that the CRP program is run correctly," Bartel said.

CRP is a voluntary federal program to help "establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland," according to the Farm Service Agency website. Grazing and haying is allowed on these lands with permission in an original or amended contract.

The James River Water Development District enhances the program by providing funding for producers to fence off waterways and install watering systems in pastures to prevent livestock from polluting the waterways.

Dave Kringen, total maximum daily loads (TMDL) project coordinator for the district, said the enhanced CRP program is similar to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program on the James River. But this program will not allow for public access.

"This is strictly a water quality practice," Kringen said.

"That would make it more popular if it doesn't create public access," said Gary Boomsma, board director. "Maybe this is the incentive or bump producers need to take a look at the program."

Bartel said he hopes this takes hold and helps Beadle, Brown, Spink and Marshall counties implement more plans to protect waterways and improve the water quality.

"This is our attempt to make a difference going north," he said. "We need to do something for those northern counties to get those streams to start healing."

In other business, the board:

• Approved a $67,002 cash request from Kringen to implement phase three of a TMDL project, which is working toward improving water quality in waterways in the district. The board also authorized district staff to provide in-kind work needed on the project.

• Approved a request for $12,000 to replace an earthen dam that washed out in Capital Township in Hutchinson County. Landowner Ron Guthmiller estimated the total cost of the project is $24,000.

• Approved $10,492 to help Beadle County pay for the repair to a diversion dam's auxiliary spillway.

• Approved $26,025 to help Beadle County pay for engineering costs already incurred for a 150,000-gallon water storage tank.

• Approved $26,025 to help the city of Huron pay for engineering costs for a 500,000-gallon water tower, which will serve the Dakota Provision turkey byproducts plant in Huron.

• Approved $1,425 to repair nine berm breaches in Brown County, which will prevent flooding on County Roads 18 and 13.

• Approved $5,307.97 to repair a berm breach east of Columbia. The county will install a 30-inch culvert, which will protect County Road 11 from flooding, a main road leading to Columbia.