Ohio’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs (CREP) reach 100,000 acre milestone.
CREP is a federal/state/local natural resource conservation program addressing state and nationally significant agriculturally related environmental problems. ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources is the program leader for Ohio’s CREP programs. CREP program participants receive financial incentives from USDA to voluntarily enroll environmentally sensitive areas in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for a minimum 14 to 15 years. CREP participants establish conservation buffers (cool and warm season grass filter strips and tree plantings) and restore wetlands to help protect and improve water quality and wildlife habitat. Ohio is one of few states that have three CREP programs. Ohio now has more than 5,000 participants (farmers and landowners) that have enrolled land into CREP and more than 105,000 acres have been enrolled through early 2011. These acres help protect more than 2,500 miles of streambank and watercourses in 57 counties.
Scioto River Watershed CREP
Besides having Ohio’s longest river, the Scioto River watershed is home to more species of fish and mussels than any other Ohio watershed. Additionally, the watershed provides drinking water to more than 20 cities, including Columbus, and is one of Ohio’s main contributors to nutrient-related environmental problems in the Gulf of Mexico. The Scioto River Watershed CREP started in 2005; since then over 67,000 acres of conservation practices have been established protecting drinking water, providing wildlife habitat and reducing nutrient pollutants in this Ohio River watershed and the Gulf of Mexico.
Lake Erie CREP
The western basin Lake Erie watershed is intensively cultivated and land use is approximately 85 percent cropland. Thus this watershed transports higher loads of sediment and dissolved reactive phosphorus. The Lake Erie CREP project helps improve water quality by reducing sediment pollution and nutrient runoff by installing filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration, hardwood tree plantings, wildlife habitat and field windbreaks. Nearly 39,000 acres of CREP practices have been enrolled in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Upper Big Walnut CREP
The entire Upper Big Walnut Creek Watershed drains to Hoover Reservoir, the largest source of drinking water for the City of Columbus. Hoover Reservoir supplies the public drinking water to more than 535,000 Columbus and area residents. Hoover Reservoir, while generally considered an excellent source of raw water, has been shown to have elevated levels of the herbicide Atrazine. The CREP program helps protect this important drinking water supply by installing conservation practices that reduce pesticide and nutrient runoff.