Envision the Choptank Releases New Agricultural Incentive Programs for Healthy Rivers

Envision the Choptank, a partnership that works to find collaborative solutions to restore fishable and swimmable waters to the Choptank River, is offering incentive money to landowners to install environmentally-friendly practices in the Choptank watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is working with The Nature Conservancy, ShoreRivers, and others in the partnership to encourage farmers and landowners to enroll in the program.

The new program offers financial assistance to farmers or other private landowners who install wetlands, grass and forested buffers, and bioreactors. The incentives are designed to overcome common barriers landowners encounter when making these improvements by providing flexible payments, reduced wait-times, and help with expenses usually not covered by federal and state cost-share programs.

Agricultural landowners with property in the Choptank River watershed may be eligible for these incentives. The watershed includes portions of Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot, and Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, and Kent County, Delaware. For more information, contact Whitley Gray at [email protected] or 443.385.0511 ext. 202.

The following options are available to help agricultural or other landowners pay for these best management practices:

The grass buffer program provides a flexible width option (10-50 feet), no mowing restrictions, and a shorter time commitment (three years). Participants receive $900 – $1,300 per acre. This program offers a great opportunity for landowners to try out a buffer before having to make a long-term commitment with a cost-share program.

The forested buffer program is similar to state and federal programs but expands the opportunity to include upland farm areas that are no longer operational due to the installation of other conservation practices, irrigation challenges, or the squaring-off of fields. Participants receive $2,000 per acre.

The wetland restoration program offers $3,000 per acre and flexibility to accommodate landowner needs. Funds can cover an engineering design that helps streamline project delivery through traditional programs. Alternatively, funds can offset the landowner portion of state or federal cost-share programs. And finally, funds can support both design and construction if cost-share programs are not being used.

Bioreactors installed in farm drainage systems to treat nutrient pollution are now an approved cost-share practice through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. To further incentivize this farm- and water-friendly practice, Envision is offering to cover the landowner portion of the cost-share, or 12.5% of the total cost.

Additional information about the incentive program can be found at the BMP Incentives blog post on the Envision the Choptank website.

Grass and forested buffers help farmers and landowners slow and filter runoff that contains fertilizer, sediment, and other Chesapeake Bay pollutants. Wetlands are valuable nutrient and carbon sinks that attenuate impacts from climate change, stabilize shorelines, and provide critical wildlife habitat.

Landowners who install these beneficial practices also help communities meet pollution reduction goals that are part of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The Blueprint provides a path for a restored Bay, which if fully implemented will improve water quality and the regional economy.

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A.J. Metcalf

Former Maryland Media & Communications Coordinator, CBF

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