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NewsTribune photo/Katlyn Rumbold Big Bureau Creek runs through sections of Bureau County and has tributaries that originate in corners of La Salle and Lee counties. Representatives from a nonprofit organization, The Wetlands Initiative, will be contacting landowners in the Big Bureau Creek Watershed area looking to find landowners who want to earn money for constructing wetlands on their properties.
PRINCETON — The Wetlands Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago, will be contacting landowners in the Big Bureau Creek Watershed area in an attempt to find landowners who want to earn money for constructing wetlands on their properties.
According to a press release issued by TWI, Alliance Pipeline is supporting TWI’s work to find farmers who are willing to construct wetlands to reduce excess nutrients — primarily nitrogen, but also phosphorus — from tile drainage.
“A two-year, $60,000 grant is benefiting the organization’s project to show how returning wetlands to the farming landscape can produce cleaner water locally and far downstream, while providing landowners with a new source of income,” the press release states.
Illinois has less than 10 percent remaining of its original wetlands, and the state is also the top contributor of nutrient pollution into the Mississippi River, according to the press release.
“TWI’s project will provide an important benefit to the local community — in the short run by helping individual farmers try out this new conservation practice, and in the long run by developing a system to reward many landowners for returning valuable wetland systems to the landscape,” said Rob Gray, spokesperson for Alliance Pipeline. “We are proud to support this effort as part of our commitment to environmental stewardship in the areas where we operate.”
Rick Siebert and Dr. Jill Kostel will lead TWI’s outreach effort.
“Our research has found that there’s great potential for water quality trading in the Big Bureau Creek Watershed, but that landowners first want to see evidence on the ground that the wetlands work,” Dr. Kostel, TWI’s senior environmental engineer, said. “Installing a few ‘demonstration wetlands’ will let the farmers kick the tires, so to speak. This is an important step toward demonstrating a market in this watershed that could be replicated to reduce nutrient pollution throughout the Midwest.”
TWI is currently working on contacting landowners about this opportunity.
“The Wetlands Initiative has already done a lot of research to identify the best places to use this practice in the watershed. We’re doing outreach now to those landowners,” Kostel said.
“However, the opportunity is not limited to those potential sites only. We probably haven’t identified every site in the watershed for installing a constructed wetland,” Kostel said. “We used the best data available in our analysis, but there’s certain information that only a site visit and landowner input can really provide. So we encourage anyone who wants to learn more to contact us so we can discuss it and potentially do an assessment of their property - although we won’t be able to say yes to every interested person.”
Landowners may contact Rick Seibert at (815) 481-0778 for more information.
“We have found that a number of small wetlands could treat the nutrient runoff of surprisingly large areas of the watershed. The Big Bureau Creek Watershed, which covers portions of La Salle, Lee, and Bureau County, is roughly 500 square miles, and 88 percent of that land is in agriculture,” Kostel said. “In watersheds like this one, we’ve calculated that less than 1 percent of the total area becoming wetlands would make a huge difference in achieving nutrient reduction goals.”
After farmers have signed on, TWI will help them access federal financial and technical assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the press release stated.
TWI hopes to get one or two farmers to have demonstration wetlands on their property by the end of the year.
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