NB_300_21_30 - NB 300-21-30 LTP – Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) Project Funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 and Opportunity for Planning Phase for New Watershed Projects
NB 300-21-30 LTP – Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) Project Funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 and Opportunity for Planning Phase for New Watershed Projects
National Bulletin: 300-21-30   Date: May 19, 2021
Subject: LTP – Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) Project Funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 and Opportunity for Planning Phase for New Watershed Projects  


Action Required By:   July 9, 2021   
 

Purpose.   To provide State conservationists (STCs) in the 12 States that comprise the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) with guidance and criteria for proposing new priority watersheds for targeted conservation efforts that require upfront planning and assessment prior to receiving financial assistance (FA). 

This guidance applies only to Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.  These States are required to participate in MRBI.              

 
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2021  
 
Background.   The MRBI was announced in FY 2009 with a primary focus of improving water quality, while also restoring wetlands, enhancing wildlife habitat, and sustaining agricultural viability in small watersheds of the Mississippi River Basin. Implementation of MRBI requires a flexible approach tailored to individual watersheds and should support conservation systems composed of practices that avoid, control, and trap sediment and nutrients.

In FY 2015 MRBI was updated to align with the nutrient loss reduction strategies developed by Hypoxia Task Force (HTF) member States. NRCS and partners worked with producers and landowners to implement and show the effectiveness of targeted, voluntary conservation systems in priority watersheds identified as major contributors of nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico.

For FY 2019 through FY 2023, MRBI will continue the emphasis on supporting nutrient loss reduction strategies through a targeted approach aided by watershed assessments. MRBI watershed activities are guided by multi-year implementation plans that document annual targets for conservation activity and the related financial assistance need. All MRBI watersheds must have watershed assessments meeting NRCS guidance. Priority watersheds that need additional planning and assessment prior to project development may be proposed for a “planning phase” in FY 2022.        
 

Explanation.   This guidance establishes criteria and action items to—

1) Propose new priority watersheds for MRBI.

a. Proposed priority watersheds for the “implementation phase" must have adequate    watershed assessments that meet NRCS guidance, or
b. Watersheds may be proposed for the “planning phase” to support upfront planning and assessment in FY 2022 to qualify for the implementation phase in future FYs.

2) There will be opportunities to request additional watersheds in future years.

 

New Priority Watersheds for MRBI Implementation

New priority watersheds for the implementation phase must meet MRBI criteria (attachment A) and have an assessment that meets assessment guidance (attachment B).  Watersheds may meet these requirements based on work completed during a planning phase, but that is not a requirement.

To propose an implementation watershed for MRBI, STCs should complete: 1) the Implementation Plan tab of the MRBI FY2022 Watershed Requests spreadsheet, and 2) the Watershed Assessment Checklist (attachment C).

Completed watershed assessments with maps identifying critical source areas are required for all watersheds that STCs propose for inclusion in the implementation phase to receive FY 2022 FA.  States should have GIS layers for their critical source areas for use in CART.

Watershed Selection for Planning and Assessment (Planning Phase)

If a potential priority watershed does not meet the required level of planning as described in attachment B, then the watershed may be proposed for inclusion in a planning and assessment phase (planning phase).  This planning phase will provide time for watershed-level assessment, on-farm planning, and outreach to support development of the multi-year implementation plan that will assist States with their nutrient loss reduction strategies.

 

STCs may receive additional support for watershed assessment.  Support includes GIS resources, assessment guidance, and targeting tools.  States may receive up to $150,000 of Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) funding to assist with watershed assessment and planning for planning watersheds.  CTA could be used to fund additional staff or develop partner agreements to assist with watershed-level planning and outreach.  CTA allocations should be requested through the FY 2022 State resource assessment and will be limited to $50,000 per watershed assessment, with a maximum of $150,000 per State.  This maximum is a combined total for NWQI and MRBI planning projects.

 

To propose a planning phase watershed, STCs should complete the Planning Phase tab of the MRBI FY2022 Watershed Requests spreadsheet.

MRBI planning phase watersheds may be transitioned into the implementation phase once assessment criteria and multiyear implementation plan requirements are met.

Please submit the MRBI FY2022 Watershed Requests spreadsheet and attachment C (if applicable) to the MRBI Coordinator no later than July 9, 2021.  The MRBI coordinator position is currently vacant but will be filled and contact information will be available on the contact page for the Areawide Planning Branch:

 

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/contact/conservation/programs/?cid=stelprdb1044190#apb

 

 

The MRBI FY2022 Watershed Requests spreadsheet should be downloaded from the MRBI SharePoint:

.

https://usdagcc.sharepoint.com/sites/nrcs_orc/MRBI/Forms/AllItems.aspx?RootFolder=%2Fsites%2Fnrcs%5Forc%2FMRBI%2FFY%202022%20MRBI

 
Contact.   If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Martin Lowenfish, Areawide Planning Branch Chief at martin.lowenfish@usda.gov     
 
 

 /s/

JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs
 

Attachment A – MRBI Priority Watershed Selection Criteria

Attachment B – NWQI/MRBI Watershed Assessment Guidance

Attachment C – Watershed Assessment Checklist   

[NB_300_21_30 - ]