Spring brings exciting work in Bear Creek watershed in Michigan
As the rest of the Great Lakes region waits for spring to bloom, Delta Institute is already working with farmers to be prepared for the ground to thaw. Given that agriculture is one of the biggest economic drivers in the Great Lakes region, the role of farmers as primary stewards of our air, soil, and water has never been more important.
That’s why Delta works with farmers throughout the region to implement conservation practices that maintain crop yields. Through our agricultural conservation programs, our team tests and refines new technology, tools, and incentives that allow farmers to optimize fertilizer application, quantify and reduce harmful nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, and decrease nutrient runoff without sacrificing crop yields in the process. We believe that a collaborative approach will help make our region’s agricultural industry more sustainable and efficient.
One model we’re testing is the pay-for-performance approach. Under this approach, farmers are paid for successful outcomes from their conservation practices, instead of a traditional approach that reimburses farmers for their upfront costs. Here is a snapshot of our upcoming work in Bear Creek, Michigan and some of our other current initiatives.
Bear Creek and Bear Lake, Michigan
We were recently awarded funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to lead a coalition effort to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in the 19,058-acre Bear Creek watershed in Muskegon County, Michigan. This large-scale project will address a wide range of pollutants from multiple sources, and it will both reduce the pollutants entering the watershed at their urban and rural sources, and restore wetlands and shoreline to prevent erosion and sedimentation problems. Delta Institute will work with multiple partners in the Muskegon area to complete this project over the next two to three years.
Nitrogen Credit Program
Initially funded through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, Delta’s Nitrogen Credit Program rewards farmers for voluntarily reducing N2O emissions by optimizing nitrogen fertilizer application rate, time, source, and placement. This significantly reduces the amount of nitrous oxide that reaches rivers and streams and evaporates into the atmosphere, which contributes to nutrient pollution of fresh water and greenhouse gas emissions. These reductions are packaged into credits and listed on the American Carbon Registry. Sales of those credits are returned to the farmer. You can read more about the program at deltanitrogen.org.
Milwaukee River Basin Phosphorous Reduction Project
We are in the middle of a three-year pilot for our Pay for Performance program in the Milwaukee River watershed. The goal of the project is to offer payments to participating farmers according to the demonstrated environmental outcomes of their conservation activities. So far, the pilot has engaged hundreds of individuals, and we are working directly with dozens of farmers. This year, we are looking forward to scaling up the project in both geography and stakeholder engagement.