Frequently Asked Questions About the Lake Erie CREP
What is the Ohio Western Lake Erie Watershed Project/ A Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program?
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a joint Federal-State land retirement conservation program that targets significant environmental effects related to agriculture. It is a voluntary program that uses financial incentives to encourage eligible producers to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for a minimum of 15 years. Eligible producers will also enter a contract with the State of Ohio for additional years beyond the CRP contract and receive a one-time bonus incentive payment.
What is Ohio's Lake Erie CREP?
The Ohio Lake Erie CREP is a special conservation program tailored to meet the needs of the State. This voluntary program will improve the water quality of streams and increase wildlife habitat by reducing sediment pollution. Up to 67,000 acres may be enrolled over the next ten years, contingent upon the State of Ohio having funds available to match federal dollars. The Ohio Lake Erie CREP is a Federal-State agreement to commit environmentally sensitive agricultural land through the Conservation Reserve Program to a conserving use.
What are the Existing Conditions?
Lake Erie is divided into 3 basins - Western, Central, and Eastern, with the Western being the shallowest, at <25 feet of depth, and the smallest. Since the Western Basin is so shallow, it is readily affected by pollution from watershed activities. The Western Lake Erie Watershed is intensively cultivated and land use is approximately 85% cropland. Because of the large numbers of intensively cropped acres, this watershed transports much higher sediment than other agricultural watersheds of similar size.
What are the goals of the Ohio Lake Erie CREP?
The Ohio Lake Erie CREP has been designed to:
- Reduce sediment loading to impaired streams and help restore designated uses of surface waters
- Protect 5,000 linear miles of stream
- Enroll 10 percent (Up To 67,000 acres) of the Western Lake Erie Watersheds farmed riparian areas
Throughout the project, the State will conduct water quality monitoring to evaluate and record progress in achieving these goals.
What areas in Ohio are included in the program?
Certain areas of the State are approved for CREP. These include eligible cropland and marginal pastureland in the watersheds of Western Lake Erie.
What is the Project Area?
The Western Lake Erie Watershed is defined as the land draining into the U.S. portion of Western Lake Erie. It encompasses the following major watersheds: Maumee River, Sandusky River, Portage River, Huron River, Vermilion River, Black River, and the Lake Erie Direct Drainage.
The Ohio counties affected are as follows: Allen, Ashland, Auglaize, Crawford, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Lucas, Lorain, Marion, Medina, Mercer, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams, Wood, and Wyandot.
Conservation practices must be installed adjoining watercourses in the designated project areas. Field windbreaks and wetland restoration may also be installed on suitable sites.
What are the benefits of the Ohio Lake Erie CREP?
CREP will provide a number of significant environmental benefits to Ohio's surface waters. Many of the existing watercourses in the watershed currently have no vegetative buffers. Under the CREP, Ohio will be able to buffer approximately 5,000 miles of watercourses. Improved water quality will result from reduced field runoff and sediment loading. Riparian buffers will also help lower water temperatures, increase dissolved oxygen, and provide additional wildlife habitat. Vegetative buffers can also reduce both the frequency and severity of flood events.
Which conservation practices are applicable under the program?
The project will improve water quality by reducing sediment pollution through installation of filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration, hardwood tree planting, wildlife habitat, and field windbreaks. The improved water quality will enhance terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat, especially for federally listed/candidates for the endangered species list.
The Ohio Lake Erie CREP (Revised October 2006) has a number of conservation practices available from which farmers can choose. The practices and associated acreage's for the proposed ten-year program are:
- Escarpment Areas (CP1) 1,500 acres
- Filter Recharge Areas (CP2) 510 Acres
- Hardwood Tree Planting (CP3A) 1,175 acres
- Permanent Wildlife Habitat (CP4D) 1,113 acres
- Field Windbreak Establishment (CP5A) 4,293 acres
- Grassed filter strips (CP21) 44,598 acres
- Riparian forest buffers (CP22) 5,700 acres
- Wetland restoration (CP23) 5,861 acres
- Rare & Declining Habitat (CP25) 1,500 acres
- Marginal Pastureland Wildlife Habitat (CP29) 500 acres
- Marginal Pastureland Wetland Buffer (CP30) 250 acres
Who can sign-up for the Ohio Lake Erie CREP and when?
Enrollment for the Ohio CREP will be on a continuous basis beginning no later than May 1, 2000. Eligible land must be within the project area and meet the basic eligibility criteria for CRP. Land must be either cropland, marginal pastureland, or otherwise qualify for CRP enrollment. Cropland must have been planted to crops four of the past six years and be physically and legally capable of being cropped. Marginal pastureland can be enrolled provided it is suitable for use as a riparian buffer planted to trees. Lands that have an existing CRP contract or an approved offer with a contract pending are not eligible for CREP until that contract expires.
What payments are available under the Ohio Lake Erie CREP?
CREP participants are eligible for four types of payments: base annual soil rental rate payments, bonus incentive payments, cost-share assistance payments, and maintenance. Annual rental payments will be based on the soil rental rate.
In addition to the rental payment, cost-share, and maintenance, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and the State will make a special incentive payment as follows:
Eligible producers will receive, from FSA, a 155% of the base annual soil rental rate payment for a 15 year CRP contract to install filter strips and wildlife habitat.
ODNR, through the local Soil and Water Conservation District, will pay a one time bonus incentive payment of $200 for filter strips and $500 for wildlife habitat in exchange for 5-year contract extension.
Eligible producers will receive, from FSA, a 175% of the base annual soil rental rate payment for a 15 year CRP contract to install riparian buffers, wetland restoration, hardwood tree planting, and field windbreaks.
ODNR, through the local Soil and Water Conservation District, will pay a one time $500 bonus incentive payment in exchange for an additional 15-year contract extension on riparian buffers, hardwood tree planting, wildlife habitat, and field windbreaks.
ODNR, through the local Soil and Water Conservation District, will pay a one-time $500 bonus incentive payment in exchange for a 15-year contract extension for wetland restoration up to a maximum $5,000 per FSA tract.
ODNR, through the Division of Wildlife, will pay up to a one-time $40 per acre bonus incentive payment for installation and seeding of 100% warm season grasses.
ODNR, through the Division of Wildlife, will pay a one-time bonus incentive payment, up to $500, for wetland restoration in exchange for a 5-year or 15-year contract extension.
Riparian buffers may be installed up to a 180' width, wildlife habitat and hardwood tree planting practices may be installed up to a 150’ width and filter strips may be offered at a 120’ width adjacent to watercourses. On alluvial floodplain soils practices may be enrolled at a 300’ width. Field windbreaks and wetland restoration may be installed on suitable sites.
Subject to availability, producers will:
Receive a one-time CRP-Stewardship Incentive Payment (SIP) of $10 per acre for each acre enrolled for each full year of CRP-1.
Receive a one-time CRP-Practice Incentice Payment (PIP) equal to 40 percent of the eligible cost of practice installation.
What is the cost?
For enrollment of 67,000 acres, the total financial obligation will be approximately $201,054,000. CCC will contribute $167,545,000 towards CRP payments over the next 15 years and make cost-share payments to eligible producers. The State of Ohio will provide up to $33,509,000 (though in-kind contributions and budgetary allocations) over the next 10 years, to match federal program dollars. Ohio's continued participation in the CREP is contingent upon the future allocation of funds to match federal dollars.
Where can people get more information about the Ohio Lake Erie CREP?
People wanting more information should contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) or the Natural Resources Conservation Service within their local U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center, your local Soil and Water Conservation District, or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Division of Soil and Water Conservation (614) 265-6610.
Information may also be obtained from the FSA web site.