COLUMBUS -- State Conservationist Terry J. Cosby announced the launch of a new National Water Quality Initiative committed to improving three impaired waterways in Ohio. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will manage the initiative by making financial assistance available to farmers and forest landowners in three priority watersheds.

"The National Water Quality Initiative will further NRCS's partnership efforts to improve water quality using voluntary actions on private lands," State Conservationist Cosby said. "This initiative is a focused approach in three priority areas facing significant natural resource challenges. It bolsters the positive results of landscape conservation initiatives NRCS and its partners already have underway."

Through this effort, eligible producers in Pipe Creek-Frontal Sandusky Bay (Huron and Erie counties), East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek (Holmes and Tuscarawas counties), and Tommy Run-Chippewa Creek (Medina and Wayne counties) Watersheds will invest in voluntary conservation practices to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities. The selected watersheds were identified with help from State agencies, partners, and the NRCS State Technical Committee.

Using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to producers for implementing conservation practices such as field borders, cover crops, waste storage facilities, heavy use area protection, and nutrient management in watersheds with impairments where Federal investments can make a difference in improving water quality.

"American farmers are good stewards of the environment, especially when they have the tools they need to protect or improve fish and wildlife habitat and water quality," said NRCS Chief Dave White. "We look forward to collaborating with producers in key watersheds to help them have a positive impact on streams with impaired water quality."

The Pipe Creek-Frontal Sandusky Bay Watershed encompasses 31,037 acres; the East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek Watershed encompasses 18,043 acres, and the Tommy Run-Chippewa Creek Watershed encompasses 23,460 acres. These watersheds are faced with significant natural resource challenges.

The National Water Quality Initiative is a focused approach to assist landowners on a voluntary basis to apply conservation practices to these priority watersheds to help reduce nutrient and sediment runoff.

NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. Remember to check with your local NRCS office to see if you are located in a selected watershed. All applications for funding consideration, during this fiscal year, must be received by June 15, 2012. At the end of an application period, NRCS ranks all submitted proposals for funding consideration. This summer, NRCS will notify all applicants of the results of the rankings and begin developing contracts with selected applicants.

Since 1935, NRCS's nationwide conservation delivery system has worked with private landowners to put conservation on the ground based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating State and national interests.

For information about the National Water Quality Initiative and NRCS programs, initiatives and services in Ohio, visit them online at