Suppose you want to build a grass waterway or maybe put in a water and sediment control basin. These are structures that help get water underground on sloping soils, but which you can usually still farm over during the cropping season.
You don't want cost-share – you don't feel like waiting for it or going through the process. All you need is some technical assistance for you and your contractor so you know it is put in correctly and will work. Can you get that from your local soil and water conservation district office?
That seems like an easy question, but it's not quite as easy as it sounds, notes Jane Hardisty, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Yes, you can get technical assistance and even get planning and design help from our staff even if you don't want cost-share on the project," she says.
The catch is that you may not get it as quick as you think you should. "In the 'old days' a district conservationist or technician in an office might come out soon after your request and work on it," she says. "That is all the case if it involves a management practice, like help on converting to no-till or using cover crops, and how to establish them. Often the district conservationist with NRCS can take care of that by themselves.
"Where it may take more time is if it is a practice, like a grass waterway, that involves design work. All of that design work is done by one of eight teams of specialists positioned around the state. Your request will be forwarded to them by your district conservationist, and they will get to you as soon as they can. But it may involve a short waiting period."
Hardisty was instrumental in setting up work teams to handle design more than a decade ago. They usually involve one or more engineers and usually some district conservation-trained NRCS personnel. "It's more efficient because they have modern technology and can design practices quickly," she says.
Amy Lester heads up the work team based in Lebanon. "We get requests like that and we get to them as soon as we can," she assures. "It's my job to determine the priority of what we do. There will usually be some wait because we always have work waiting on us to do. We're always busy."
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