Senator Stabenow Joins Local Partners to Highlight $20M Public/Private Investment in Saginaw Bay Watershed

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today joined local agriculture and conservation partners in Frankenmuth to highlight a historic $10 million public investment that will be matched by a $10 million private sector investment to improve water quality in the Saginaw Bay Watershed, Michigan's largest watershed. Support for this project comes through the 2014 Farm Bill's Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which Sen. Stabenow and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched in Bay City last year.

"The Saginaw Bay Watershed Conservation Partnership, along with other recently funded Michigan partnerships, is one of the largest commitments ever made to water quality in the Great Lakes," said Senator Stabenow. "This innovative project is truly driven by local farmers and partners who have the most at stake when it comes to taking care of our land and water. Working together, this partnership will protect the Saginaw Bay Watershed for families, boaters, hunters and anglers to enjoy."

"We believe that this public-private partnership between agriculture, the conservation community, private companies and higher education marks a paradigm shift in sustainability and water quality," said Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. "The bottom line is, there's no quick fix on water quality. But this new public-private partnership under RCPP in the Saginaw Bay Watershed represents an important new first step."

"The Saginaw Bay Watershed RCP is what The Nature Conservancy likes to call an ‘AND' project, because working with our partners, we will get healthier Rivers and Streams in the Saginaw Valley AND we will get productive, profitable farms AND a prosperous regional agricultural economy," said Rich Bowman, Director of Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy. "It's a triple win and we are excited to be moving forward."

"For a long time, Michigan agriculture has embraced the latest practices to maximize our efficiency and boost yields, while making sure what we do is sustainable, efficient, and environmentally responsible," said J.J. Metz, a Certified Crop Advisor with Crop Production Services in Linwood. "We know that to continue being productive, we must be good stewards of our water resources. This new program is an important opportunity to provide solutions and be leaders in this area."

Saginaw Bay hosts the largest coastal wetland in Lake Huron and faces numerous water quality challenges from loss of wildlife habitat to algae blooms. The Saginaw Bay Watershed Conservation Partnership will help farmers improve productivity in the field, restore acres of wetlands, reduce excessive sediment and nutrient runoff, and monitor long-term trends in fish population and habitat. The Michigan Agri-Business Association and The Nature Conservancy will lead 35 local partners on the project.

Over $40 million will support projects across Michigan and the Great Lakes region that invest in clean water, soil, and wildlife conservation. Each project was designed by dozens of local partners including businesses, non-profits, universities, and federal, state, and local governments. Partners are required to match federal funding, effectively doubling the federal investment.