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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #438958

Research Project: FY 2020 Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) Benchmark Watershed Assessment Studies (on croplands)

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-13000-015-011-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2020
End Date: Sep 30, 2022

Objective:
This agreement describes a partnership between the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to achieve conservation goals of mutual benefit, as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). Through this agreement, the NRCS proposes to contribute funding to enhance and accelerate the completion of research and assessment, and associated products and outcomes, contained within the ARS National Program 211 Water Availability and Watershed Management 2016-2021 Action Plan, which remains in force through January 2021, including objectives of particular interest to NRCS to support conservation activities. Principal focus of the CEAP Watershed Studies is to evaluate the effects and benefits of conservation practices at the watershed scale, in support of policy decisions and program implementation. The overall goals of the CEAP are to: • Estimate conservation effects and benefits at regional and national scales; and • Develop scientific understanding of conservation practice effects at watershed scales. The goals of the CEAP Watershed Assessment Studies Components are: • Quantify the measurable effects of conservation practices at the watershed scale. • Enhance understanding of conservation effects in the biophysical setting of a watershed. • Inform local watershed conservation strategies.

Approach:
1. The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) supports watershed strategies for prioritizing and implementing conservation practices, including those directed at the riparian area and at runoff along concentrated flow pathways. Developed for conditions in the Midwestern states, the proposed research tests ACPF in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont watershed. 2. The parties will work with NRCS planners to ensure that recommendations from ACPF are consistent with practice standards (this is planned in a separate agreement established in FY19). 3. This agreement supports collaboration with local watershed teams to (re) develop scenarios comparing ACPF recommendations with alternate recommendations (e.g., EPA 319 grant watershed plan, TMDL WIP watershed plan, local expert-derived watershed plan). 4. ACPF predictions will be compared with high frequency water quality monitoring in contrasting watersheds. Real-time, s::can sensors will be deployed in multiple watersheds, comparing the water quality results (one would expect an agricultural watershed with BMPs in places where ACPF says they should be to have better water quality than a watershed without those BMPs). 5. ACPF recommendations will be compared with interpretations from geo-referenced historical aerial photography that map structural best management practices on a roughly decadal time step. Priority locations include the Western Lake Erie Basin, Chesapeake Bay, and the Lower Mississippi. Potential watersheds could include Mahantango Creek, PA, and the Blanchard River, OH. 6. Specific activities for FY19 include: (2) deploy high-frequency water quality sensors in one new catchment where ACPF predicts conservation practices have and have not been implemented effectively. (3) identify and map locations of structural BMPs observable from multi-decadal aerial imagery to compare locations of existing BMPs with output from ACPF.