DEP and WAC announce $92 Million Contract

DEP and WAC announce $92 Million Contract

Contract will continue work to protect water quality and working lands through 2025

The Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced a $92 million contract that will continue to protect water quality and promote working landscapes in the watershed through 2025. The DEP funding will allow WAC to continue and expand its agriculture, forestry and economic viability programs in the watershed. The contract is the largest since WAC was established in 1993.

 “Since our inception we have been a firm believer that there always needs to be a balance between conservation efforts, economic viability initiatives, and water quality protection in our region,” WAC Executive Director Craig Cashman said. “Building local relationships with land and business owners has always been the key to our success and this contract builds on the past accomplishments. These efforts could only be accomplished through our partnerships with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County, Delaware County Soil and Water, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.”

“Our collaboration with WAC is considered a worldwide model for protecting water quality while enhancing the viability of working lands,” DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said. “This work, driven by sound science and applied through the permission of private landowners in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, has yielded measurable improvements in water quality for New York City’s reservoir system. I want to thank all the staff at WAC, and the farm and forest owners who voluntarily enrolled in the programs, for driving the success of these efforts for the past 26 years.”

 After extensive negotiation between DEP and WAC, this new contract will allow programs throughout the watershed to continue and expand. The contract includes additional funding to accelerate implementation of best management practices on farms, thereby reducing a backlog of covered barnyards, manure storage, and other practices that are waiting to be installed. Other programs include the expansion of the Nutrient Management Credit Program, now available to all eligible farms in the West-of-Hudson Watershed. That program provides a financial incentive for farmers who follow a prescribed plan for the spreading of manure and/or fertilizer on their fields throughout the year to minimize nutrient-laden runoff into nearby streams. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) will be joined with the Catskill Streams Buffer Initiative (CSBI) in a pilot program to preserve buffer lands along streams, creeks and rivers. In addition, the Precision Feed Management Program will continue to include a maximum of 60 farms.

 A total of $845,000 was also set aside for business planning, farm transition planning and micro grants for West-of-Hudson farm and forest producers through 2025. These programs are designed to encourage activities that enhance the economic viability of farm and forest businesses through marketing, training, events, staffing and more. They will also support the development of professional business and/or farm transition plans for farm or forestry businesses to better position them for improved economic profitability and sustainability. Other economic viability programming includes the continued funding of the Pure Catskills campaign, which encourages consumers to buy local products, and WAC’s annual publication of the Guide to Pure Catskills Products. The forestry program will continue funding water quality best management practices on logging jobs, as well as forest stewardship practices such as timber stand improvement and wildlife enhancements on privately owned forestland in the watershed. 

Since it was established in 1993, the Watershed Agricultural Council has completed 450 whole farms plans on agricultural lands in the City’s West-of-Hudson and East-of-Hudson watersheds, and it has installed more than 7,800 best management practices to improve the operation of farms and the quality of runoff coming from them. WAC has also preserved more than 30,000 acres of farm and forest lands through conservation easements.