Freshwater Trust, Willamette Partnership get $1.5M grant
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Willamette Partnership and The Freshwater Trust will use a new USDA grant to establish a Joint Regional Water Quality Trading Agreement.
Willamette Partnership and The Freshwater Trust won a $1.5 million grant from the Conservation Innovation Grants program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The grant will fund a Joint Regional Water Quality Trading Agreement between Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The two organizations received a $1 million grant last year to set up water quality trading in Oregon. The Freshwater Trust this year landed an $8 million contract with the city of Medford to meet regulatory compliance requirements by improving river habitat.
Both events help shape the idea of water quality trading in the Pacific Northwest, which quantifies the benefits of river and wastershed restoration work and translates into regulatory compliance credits that are vetted by state agencies. Businesses can use those credits — tied to tree planting and other habitat improvement efforts — to meet regulations.
The new grant will help develop policy to put the trading concept in more widespread use in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Willamette Partnership will lead the effort. The Freshwater Trust will match USDA’s financial commitment. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. EPA Region 10 will also play pivotal roles in the project.
“With clear and consistent guidance from state regulatory agencies in place, regulated entities like wastewater treatment facilities will be confidently able to participate as buyers in water quality trading programs just as farmers and ranchers will be confidently able to participate as voluntary sellers of water quality credits,” said Bobby Cochran, executive director of Willamette Partnership, in a press release.
“We believe there are states around the nation that are on the cusp of having thriving water quality trading markets,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “These grant awards will help develop projects that create new revenue streams for farmers and ranchers while they are helping to improve water quality.”
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