LITTLE ROCK – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and White River Irrigation District hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on May 7 west of DeValls Bluff for the first phase of construction of the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project.
The grand opening marked the start of construction of the first set of canals that will carry water from the White River to irrigate approximately 37,800 acres of cropland when completed.
âWe would like to thank the White River Irrigation District for their leadership and persistence in this project over the years,â Arkansas State Curator Mike Sullivan said at the ceremony. âIt was a very ambitious project. If not for the leadership, ingenuity and perseverance of the Irrigation District and its staff, with the strong support of the State of Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Congressional Delegation, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, and the NRCS, this project would never have progressed to this point.
Over the past few months, the Arkansas NRCS has received $ 48 million in federal funds to use with available local funding to build several segments of the project and pipelines so the irrigation district can begin providing water. Sullivan added. âThis initial section will build the first two miles of canals. Overall, this project will significantly reduce the rate of groundwater withdrawal and allow farmers to continue to be productive, growing more rice than any other state, as well as other crops, while reducing their pumping costs. .
When complete, the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project, in parts of Arkansas, Lonoke, Monroe and Prairie counties, will ensure continuous irrigated production on 245,400 acres of cropland. Agricultural water management will increase irrigation efficiency and provide additional water for agricultural crops using the White River as a surface water source. Other benefits include energy savings and increased yields due to increased managed use of surface water. The NRCS serves as a technical advisor to project promoters due to its engineering and environmental expertise and its ability to provide technology and scientific knowledge on natural resources and the watershed ecosystem.
Project funding is provided through the PL83-566 watershed program. The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention program helps federal, state, local and tribal units of government (project sponsors) protect and restore watersheds up to 250,000 acres.
âToday is an important step towards providing affordable water to our farmers in the White River Irrigation District,â said Dan Hooks, President of the White River Irrigation District. âThe progress we have made over the past several years has put us on track to our ultimate goal of improving efficient and sustainable irrigation practices here in Grand Prairie.
The vision for the project that Mr. Jake Hartz, Mr. Bill Moorehead and other district leaders had over 50 years ago is finally coming to fruition and we could not be happier with the direction we are taking. Achieving this vision would not be possible without the hard work of all of our state and federal partners, but to name a few, Governor Hutchinson, Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward, the US Senator John Boozman, US Congressman Rick Crawford, NRCS, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Arkansas Department of Agriculture. We know we still have a lot of work to do, but today is a big step for the farmers of the Grande Prairie, âadded Hooks.
âAgriculture is the state’s largest industry, contributing more than $ 21 billion to our economy each year,â Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Ward said. “This phase of canal construction is yet another testament to the progress made in supporting Arkansas agriculture while preserving our natural resources.”
Since 1954, the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program has helped communities meet critical needs in flood control, water management, watershed protection and development. This strong federal, state and local partnership has resulted in the construction of more than 2,000 watershed projects that help communities across the country. These watershed projects reflect a federal investment of approximately $ 6.2 billion and generate average annual benefits estimated at $ 2.2 billion nationally.
In Arkansas, there have been 35 completed watershed projects. These 35 projects include 209 small and medium-sized flood control dams and hundreds of kilometers of flood control drainage ditches. Built by the NRCS in partnership with local river basin districts, these earthen dams and ditches provide an average annual benefit of over $ 51 million from flood reduction.
In 2020, the NRCS announced it is investing in an existing project and three new multi-year projects (including the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project) in Arkansas that will build vital infrastructure and conserve natural resources. The other projects are the Bayou Meto Irrigation Project, the West Fork of the White River Watershed Project, and the Departee Creek Watershed Project.
To learn more about conservation assistance opportunities, property owners should contact their local USDA service center or for more information on the NRCS visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.