Juniper, along with partners Ducks Unlimited and the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, was awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant from the US Department of Agriculture. Extreme weather, both rainfall events and drought, has led to water quantity and quality issues in the Great Plains. Stream erosion, aquifer depletion, decreased pasture forage quality & quantity, and reduction of quality wildlife habitat have been seen as a result. In the western states, landowners have implemented Low Tech Process Based (LTPB) structures such as Beaver Dam Analogs and Post Assisted Log structures, an approved EQIP practice, to address some of these issues. Very little research has been conducted on LTPB complexes in the Great Plains, so they are not promoted, despite their potential. This study aims to evaluate the performance of LTPB complexes in Great Plains’ prairie streams.
The overall project objective is to evaluate LTPB complexes in prairie stream environments through monitoring of multiple variables over the course of three growing seasons. Variables were selected based on their sensitivity to extreme climate events, heavy rainfall, or drought. Four study sites are located in varying physiographic regions of Kansas and Nebraska.
Water Quality variables will be measured to inform how LTPB complexes can increase resiliency to large rainfall events. These will be measured with a combination of field and laboratory methods three times during the growing season of each project year.
Depth to Water Table provides insight on how LTPB complexes assist with groundwater recharge that increases resiliency against drought. Water Table Monitoring Wells have been installed adjacent to stream and approximately 6m from stream, measured three times during the growing season of each project year. Annual geomorphic surveys of LTPB complexes are being conducted at five cross sections per property to provide additional insight into potential long-term effects on groundwater recharge as well as onsite water storage.
Vegetation Response is evidence of the effects of groundwater recharge and onsite water retention and can also indicate resiliency against rainfall-induced undesirable erosion. Vegetation community and pasture forage yield will be measured three times during the growing season of each project year along transects perpendicular to the stream.
Wildlife Habitat will be measured as a further indicator of water quality, water quantity, and vegetative community diversity. Visual evidence of wildlife usage will be noted during all sampling visits. Benthic invertebrates and fish will be sampled at the beginning of year one and near the end of year three.
A GIS based planning tool will be developed to help identify streams that would be good candidates for LTPB Complex installation. LTPB complex design will follow existing specifications provided from other NRCS regions of the US.
A three-day workshop will be held targeting NRCS Conservationists to familiarize them with the LTPB concept and the hands-on construction of an LTPB complex. At least one two-day workshop will be held with EQIP-eligible producers and NRCS near the end of the project in order to build knowledge of LTPB complexes and their acceptance as a beneficial practice in the Great Plains. All workshops will contribute towards the knowledge base NRCS and conservationists need to promote LTPB complexes as a useful conservation and climate-resiliency practice. A summary on alterations to existing LTPB specifications will be provided that are applicable to prairie landscapes if warranted.
Low-Tech Process Based In-Stream Structures to Increase Climate Resiliency in the Great Plains – Kansas and Nebraska
Project Value: $1,679,169