“More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted nationwide. With so many strong proposals, the project selection process was extremely competitive,” said Lisa Coverdale, Connecticut State Conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. “We are so very proud that three from Connecticut have been selected for funding. This is such an amazing opportunity to work with some really innovative groups, including some we’ve never had the opportunity to work with before.”
Chosen as a national project was a proposal submitted by the Connecticut Association of Conservation Districts which will address excess nutrients that have been identified as the primary cause of hypoxic conditions in Long Island Sound (impacting upland water resources within the watershed including areas of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). The RCPP program will provide $10 million toward the project which will develop a comprehensive, whole-farm management certainty program for farmers in the area. The project will utilize both working lands and easement programs to improve soil health and nutrient management, establish community resiliency areas with a focus on enhancing riparian areas, and institute a land protection program to protect agricultural and forestry areas.
“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” said Coverdale. “Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.”
“This grant is a major investment that will help preserve our treasured Long Island Sound for generations to come,” said Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2). “The funding will enable local, state and federal partners to work together to protect the watershed across our region, improving the health of the Sound and strengthening our regional commitment to our environment.”
“This new funding gives the Long Island Sound a welcome and much-needed boost,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Co-Chair of the Congressional Long Island Sound Caucus. “It will enable us to connect local, state and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations, across the Long Island Sound watershed, and give them necessary resources to protect the Sound. In addition to protecting the natural beauty of the Sound, this helps create tourism and recreation jobs, bolstering our economy. This level of coordination and funding is unprecedented, and a great step forward for Connecticut.”
“For the strength of our regional economy and the long term health of our environment, preservation of the Long Island Sound and its watershed is imperative,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “Connecticut is leading the region in this vital effort to ensure our waterways, farmland and forests continue to thrive as we confront the looming challenge of climate change. This powerful collaboration will pay dividends for generations to come, and I look forward to continuing to support this important work.”
“This new initiative provides an incentive for local conservation districts, state and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations to collaborate on a landscape scale program to protect Long Island Sound,” said Denise Savageau, President of the Connecticut Association of Conservation Districts. “The RCPP will allow us to better leverage resources and will serve as a catalyst for new public-private partnerships within the watershed.”
“This multi-organization initiative provides land use managers the tools and resources to make a significant positive impact on conditions affecting Long Island Sound and its tributaries,” said Jeff Folger, Chair of the Connecticut Council on Soil and Water Conservation.
“The Connecticut River Watershed Council is pleased to be one of the project partners that will be using the RCPP award to improve the health and vitality of both the Connecticut River and the Long Island Sound,” said Andrew Fisk, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council. “These two iconic New England waterbodies contribute mightily to the quality of life and the economy of New England, so we are proud to be working with landowners to help them do their part to restore and protect the public’s water.”
“The Nature Conservancy is excited to be part of the Long Island Sound Watershed Regional Conservation Partnership Program,” said Kim Lutz, Director of the Conservancy’s Connecticut River Program. “These funds will provide critical dollars to address conservation needs in two connected natural systems that are priorities for the Conservancy: the Long island Sound and the Connecticut River systems. We’re especially happy to have the opportunity to expand our work helping improve resilience in the face of a changing climate. The Conservancy is extremely grateful to Congressman Joe Courtney, of Connecticut’s 2nd District, and Congressional representatives throughout the multistate Long Island Sound watershed for support of this funding. We look forward to working with the NRCS and a diverse array of partners throughout the region to achieve the projects’ ambitious goals.”
“Long Island Sound is one of the Northeast’s greatest natural resource and deserves our protection and preservation,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “As it is a regional resource, it requires regional efforts to ensure its health – the funding we are receiving today will help make this happen.”
“Protecting the shellfish-rich waters of Long Island Sound by helping farmers implement best-management practices on working farmlands is critical to sustaining the growth of Connecticut’s thriving agricultural economy,” state Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said. “This funding will help ensure that these vital natural resources continue to produce both healthy food for consumers and a prosperous living for our hardworking farmers and other agricultural producers. I applaud the NRCS for this innovative approach that leverages resources and enlists the collaboration of all involved stakeholders.”
“We are thrilled to be part of this pivotal legacy initiative,” said Highstead Conservation Director Emily Bateson. “Highstead works with 20 public-private conservation collaboratives across the Long Island Sound Watershed who now have an opportunity to partner with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to dramatically increase land and clean water protection for future generations.”
Two additional state projects were selected for funding:
Achieving Agricultural Water Security in Connecticut through RCPP was submitted by the University of Connecticut. Partners will utilize $400,000 in RCPP funds to work with producers to help optimize food production, improve irrigation efficiency, reduce impacts of drought, and become economically resilient in the face of greater climate variability.
Improving Soil Health and Water Quality in the Thames River Watershedwas submitted by The Last Green Valley. Partners will utilize $400,000 in RCPP funds work to improve soil health and water quality in the Thames River Watershed. The long-term objective is to implement soil health conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program on 1,000 acres of cropland and show a measurable improvement of edge-of-field and in-stream water quality, including a decrease in nutrient and turbidity levels.
Projects not selected in this first year may be eligible in subsequent years. The next announcement of program funding for FY 2016 will be made later this year. For more information on Connecticut RCPP projects, visit the Connecticut NRCS website, or view the full list of projects on the National NRCS website.