The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide cost-share to area producers through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to fill abandoned irrigation reuse pits in the watersheds of priority wetlands located in the Rainwater Basin Wetland Complex in south-central Nebraska. Rainwater Basin Joint Venture partners have additional cost-share dollars available for irrigation reuse pits identified as high priority for removal.
Irrigation reuse pits were constructed to capture irrigation water runoff from cropland. These pits were large and deep, causing them to capture not only irrigation water, but also a majority of the other surface water in the vicinity. This has caused wetlands in the Rainwater Basin wetland complex to lose critical water needed to provide habitat for migrating birds. With the increased installation of center pivot irrigation systems, the need for irrigation reuse pits has decreased. This cost share can help producers fill unneeded pits and reclaim these acres for farmland, while also helping restore the hydrology of the area wetlands.
Rainwater Basin Joint Venture coordinator Andy Bishop says, “Filling unused irrigation reuse pits is a unique ‘win-win’ opportunity. Producers are able to remove an obstacle from their farm field, and increase their farmable acres. The water that would have otherwise collected in the pits flows to the nearby wetlands.”
According to Bishop, improved wetland function not only provides more habitat for the estimated 8.6 million waterfowl that migrate through south-central Nebraska each spring; it also benefits local residents and producers by contributing to groundwater recharge, which naturally occurs through Rainwater Basin wetlands.
Agricultural landowners and operators interested in this opportunity should contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office to determine eligibility for the cost share funding.