Included in the $5 million Indiana spends on soil and water conservation annually are grants to soil and water conservation districts and other groups, which turn the money into practices that reduce soil erosion and improve water quality. The Indiana State Soil Conservation Board awards grants each November for the upcoming fiscal year.
This year, SSCB awarded more than $1 million through the Clean Water Indiana Program. This is a conservation match funding program that supports reducing pollutants in Indiana’s waterways.
Clean Water Indiana was created by the Legislature in 1999. It’s the successor to T by 2000, the first statewide program aimed at using state money to attack soil erosion and address water quality issues. T by 2000 began in 1986.
CWI is funded mainly by a portion of the state’s cigarette tax revenue and has funded more than 140 projects since its inception. For the past few years, the Legislature has added up to $1 million on top of what’s collected through cigarette taxes to CWI. The portion from the cigarette tax declines as tobacco tax revenue declines.
Jordan Seger, deputy director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, notes that the Division of Soil Conservation within ISDA received funding requests for well over twice the amount that could be awarded for 2020.
The Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts asked the Legislature for a large increase in funding in 2019, seeking up to $15 million, with a significant portion earmarked for SWCDs and CWI. The Legislature did not grant the request but did continue the practice of granting an additional appropriation of around $1 million. Records show that due to a 3% reduction assessed on other state programs as well, the amount allotted for this year was about $970,000.
How grants help
Fourteen proposals representing 39 SWCDs and two conservation groups were awarded funds, which can be used in a variety of ways, Seger reports. For example, one grantee could use funds for cost-share on cover crop or livestock practices, while another grantee could use the funds to hire a staff associate.
Districts and groups receiving grants are encouraged to collaborate with their counterparts in neighboring counties. Many will use this funding to leverage additional resources from outside organizations.
“Partnership is key to this program,” says Bruce Kettler, ISDA director. “Collaboration between groups like SWCDs, soil conservation partners and farmers will move the needle forward in preventing sediment and nutrients from entering Indiana’s vital waterways.”