ASHLAND — Ashland County landowners in the Lake Erie watershed are eligible for a new incentive program being offered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP) will pay landowners a $2,000/acre incentive to install or restore wetlands or forested riparian buffers on their land, as part of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative.
The new program is being offered in combination with the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP is a USDA conservation program that offers farmers and landowners financial compensation for taking cropland out of production and establishing conservation practices.
“Right now is a great time to sign up for the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Program (CREP) while these water quality incentive payments are available,” said Erica White, Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) technician and watershed coordinator. “H2Ohio programs are starting to roll out throughout the state and we are excited to work with landowners in Ashland county as they become available.
"With weather patterns becoming more extreme it’s a great opportunity to take those problem fields and evaluate if they would be better to implement a conservation practice on.”
In addition to the $2,000/acre enrollment incentive, producers would also receive an annual payment installing these practices; enrollment requires a 15-year commitment to the practice and sign up runs through Jan. 29.
The H2Ohio Water Quality Incentive Program will offer a one-time payment of $2,000 per acre for new Lake Erie CREP wetlands and forested riparian buffers (buffer strip with trees) to help improve water quality in the Lake Erie watershed. Wetlands and riparian buffers act as filters to reduce nutrient loading into waterways and help reduce flooding. Riparian buffers also stabilize streambanks to reduce soil erosion.
“Improving Ohio’s water quality is incredibly important,” DeWine said. “Giving farmers an incentive to participate in this conservation process is another step toward clean water for future generations.”
In Ashland County, the Lake Erie watershed includes parts of Clear Creek, Orange, Ruggles, Sullivan and Troy Townships.
“This program gives farmers a unique opportunity to benefit the environment and themselves,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “The program will let farmers boost Ohio’s environmental health while receiving fair compensation.”
To qualify for the H2Ohio Water Quality Incentive Program, interested farmers and landowners must be eligible for CREP and submit an H2Ohio WQIP application during the announced sign-up period prior to their CREP contract approval. Applicants do not have to sign up for CREP prior to applying for the H2Ohio WQIP. However, if the
applicant is approved for the WQIP, an approved CREP contract will be required to receive the WQIP payment. Applications will be scored and selected based on criteria to prioritize the best projects to improve water quality.
For more information on how to apply for the WQIP or Lake Erie CREP programs, contact White at 419-281-7645 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.