Curbing Agricultural Runoff that Pollutes the Gulf of Mexico

From the Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2014
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NEW MADISON, Ohio— Kevin Hollinger planted radishes and oats last fall in his corn and soybean fields, but he isn’t planning to harvest them. Instead, he is letting the crops die over the winter to improve the soil and keep fertilizer and other nutrients from running into nearby waterways. “I could hardly go to town without someone asking: ‘What’s that in your field?’ ” said Mr. Hollinger, a fourth-generation farmer. Helping to foot the bill for his experiment is a pilot program set to launch fully next month. Farmers in the Ohio River basin are being paid to make changes—from what they plant to how they handle manure—in an effort to minimize runoff that can cause hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, in waterways.
Nutrient runoff plays a role, nearly 1,000 miles downstream from Mr. Hollinger’s farm, in the formation of the so-called dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico—an area where fish and other aquatic life can’t survive and which is considered one of the nation’s biggest water-pollution problems. Shrinking the dead zone—which was most recently the size of Connecticut—has challenged regulators. Nutrients that flow down in the Mississippi River and end up in the Gulf come from hundreds of thousands of sources across more than a dozen states.

Read the whole article at

Farmers and Water Quality Bankers

“That conservation mindset further blossomed after a chance meeting with Brents Fults in a Farmville log yard 10 years ago.

Fults, a landscape architect, long had wanted to develop private enterprise solutions to fix larger environmental problems.

He found a ready partner with John Harrison. By 2005, they had established the state’s first stream bank on Harrison’s Wildwood Farm, which cleaned up streams for credits that then are sold to developers. The nutrient offset bank came next. It’s a more complicated concept with greater potential to meet the family’s goal of generating money to keep the farm.” 

From:  Appomattox County Farm Does its part to keep Bay Clean


I was googling our Virigina water quality partner Brent Fults (never can tell what he is up to) and found this wonderful article I had never seen about his company and the Chesapeake Bay Nutirient Land Trust’s first water quality bank, Wildwood Farms, with the Harrison family of Appamotto County, Virginia.

The story is an accurate tribute to the profound promise of agriculture working with mitigation bankers. Readers of our blog are well aware now of the long history of farmers and bankers doing well by doing good with stream restoration.

In commercial stream mitigation projects, the farmer takes a relatively non-productive creek and riparian property and converts it, with an investment from the banker, to stream mitigation credits for sale to the regulated public. RS and Brent’s firm have done just this with dozens of our farming partners

What Brent and his team accomplished at Wildwood, however, is even more promising for the long-term economic prospects of mitigation banking and to a smaller degree (as it is a much larger industry) agriculture.

EarthSource Solutions expanded their project at the Harrison Farm and successfully permitted the the very first mitigation bank for water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. That’s  a big deal — and getting bigger. Water Quality Banks are the next and much much larger wave of mitigation banking. As we have proven here in North Carolina (with the first such banks in the country) these new approaches lead to a virtuous cycle of payments from water polluters to water improvers (read agriculture).

And to think, all that from a chance meeting at a Farmville VA log yard!!

From the News and Advance of Lynchburg / Virginia Appomattox County Farm Does its part to keep Bay Clean

Five years ago, cloudy water flowed in a tiny Appomattox County stream. A brown fuzz of algae and silt lined the bottom.

The stream, which drains a small section of a 900-acre farm, looked like most rural creeks in Central Virginia that bear scars from agricultural and livestock runoff.

Today, about 110 acres of that farm have been converted from nutrient-polluting cattle land to water-cleansing forest and hay field.

Now the creek flows clear, with bottom rocks clean, as it meets a larger, still murky stream on its way to the James River.

That clear water is the result of years of transformation on John and Phillip Harrison’s land. The effort has placed the farm at the forefront of statewide legislation to improve water quality.

The land is the first in Virginia to help clean our streams, creeks and rivers through a pioneering combination of private business enterprise and two generations of land stewardship. [Full story here]