The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design with $750,000 over the next five years to support hiring a science advisor to assist the agency with addressing regional water quality concerns in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“A vibrant and healthy agricultural sector is one key to restoring and improving the Chesapeake Bay,” said Jason Hubbart, the Davis College associate dean for research and director of the WVU Institute of Water Security and Science.
“This program creates the structure for the university to promote and support NRCS leadership in collaborations with landowners, industries, the Environmental Protection Agency and Chesapeake Bay Program offices, United States Geological Survey, state and local governments, and other agencies and organizations as they work together to benefit working farms and forests and to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” Hubbart, who will supervise the position, said.
The Davis College and the IWSS will support the NRCS science advisor as the position provides expert scientific and technical guidance related to reducing nonpoint source loading of nutrients and sediment to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Nonpoint source pollution comes from many different places and is transported within and from watersheds when it rains or snows.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed encompasses the entire District of Columbia and parts of six states including Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and is the largest estuary in the United States. More than 13.6 million people live in these areas, overwhelming the watershed with nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which has had a negative impact on everything from grasses to oysters.
“Given ongoing nonpoint pollution of nutrients and suspended sediment to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, this is an opportunity for NRCS, in collaboration with WVU Davis College and the Institute of Water Security and Science, to provide leadership that will advance reductions of those diffuse pollutants to the Bay,” Hubbart said.
The science advisor will support and promote adaptive integration of programs supporting voluntary agricultural conservation practices to more effectively address water quality challenges and restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay.
“This is a rather distinct – and very exciting – opportunity for NRCS and WVU to provide leadership from West Virginia that, through networking and collaboration will impact all CBP partners (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia) of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” Hubbart said.
“The WVU Davis College is one of the preeminent agricultural institutions in the nation, and having access to some of the best academic minds in the country just across town has been a tremendous advantage,” said Louis Aspey, NRCS West Virginia State Conservationist. “Our agency is excited about the opportunity to support this position as it benefits working farms and forests to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
This is just one of several collaborations established between the NRCS and the Davis College over the past several years. The two entities established a five-year project agreement in 2015, initially allocating resources for six research projects to be carried out by WVU researchers. This work has recently been expanded as well.
With the aim of leveraging resources of both organizations, NRCS project support has enabled researchers to address issues such as improving soil health and wetland functions to extending the service reach of NRCS to its constituents.
“The Chesapeake Bay science advisor position will further solidify the collaborative relationship developed between the Davis College and the NRCS,” said Davis College Dean Daniel J. Robison. “This opportunity will have a positive impact on both the NRCS, the college, West Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and we are excited about all of our collaborative efforts.
“Key to this approach are the long-established and effective partnerships between private landowners with working lands and the WVU Davis College and USDA NRCS. In this partnership we are committed to further advancing economic and environmental quality on behalf of the people, communities and industries throughout this most significant watershed.”