The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed has been named a “Critical Conservation Area” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a new status that targets federal funding to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
The new designation, announced Tuesday, is part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, established under the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill. There are eight such conservation areas nationwide. The Delta watershed is the only one that lies entirely within a single state’s boundaries.
The program aims to match $1.2 billion in federal funding, over five years, with matching funds from other partners to expand the effectiveness of conservation programs. Partners can include private companies, nonprofits, universities, indian tribes and local governments.
“What I think you’ll see is a more focused, targeted approach to solving water quality issues,” said Alan Forkey, assistant state conservationist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a branch of the USDA. “The goal is to actually double the federal funding available if we can get partners coming to the table.”
Eligible programs will include those that address water conservation, water quality and wildlife habitat – particularly those that help salmon and other so-called anadromous fish, Forkney said.
Agricultural property owners, irrigation districts and potential partners have until July 14 to submit proposals for the first round of project funding. For more information, call Forkey at (530) 792-5653, or visit the program website.