Friday, January 23, 2015

Clean water on agricultural lands: Staff in eastern Washington take to the field this spring

By Brook Beeler, Communications, Eastern Region

Ecology staff will return to the field in March to assess the health of streams in several eastern Washington watersheds.

This is the same survey work we have done in the past to identify water quality problems and then follow-up with landowners to offer options and funding to help them fix water pollution problems. What’s new this time is that we are improving our outreach to landowners.

A farm nestled in the Palouse region of eastern Washington.
Photo credit: Ellery Samuels.
Agriculture is important to our way of life in Washington.  Clean water and a strong agricultural community can go hand-in-hand. To strengthen our commitment to the agricultural community Director Maia Bellon reached out to expand upon and improve our working relationships with landowners and livestock producers by creating the Agriculture and Water Quality Advisory Committee.

The advisory committee provides an open forum for dialogue ensuring both water quality protection and a healthy agricultural industry. Recently, the group reviewed the watershed assessment process and recommended key changes.

Our improved process this field season includes partnering with local producer groups to provide additional outreach. We will include more specific information in letters to landowners about water quality concerns. We will offer follow-up site visits, and give a clear explanation of our process and timeline for actions.

We will be focusing on five areas in eastern Washington including: Blue Mountain streams, Hangman Creek, the north and south fork Palouse River, Snake River tributaries in Whitman County, and the Walla Walla River.

Cattle are fenced away from the stream to protect
streamside trees and shrubs and water quality. 
We are partnering with conservation districts and WSU Extension to host workshops so landowners can learn about the current health of their watershed, the watershed assessment process and resources available to promote a healthy operation and protect clean water.

Three workshops are currently scheduled. Each starts at 6 p.m.:

Clean water and a healthy agriculture industry are compatible. Our eastern Washington watershed assessment is a tool to provide the technical and financial assistance that can support that outcome. We are dedicated to working with Washington’s agricultural community to achieve the shared value of healthy agriculture and clean water.

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