Earlier this week, the Washington state Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Assessment Section was awarded funding to monitor the Columbia River Basin watershed. The $200,000 from the EPA is part of $2 million distributed nationally to help reduce and assess toxins impacting the water quality.

The EPA grant funds an NRAS Pesticide Stewardship Partnership (PSP) pilot program that will collect water quality data and utilize local expertise to guide voluntary changes in pesticide use practices and ultimately improve water quality.

NRAS manager Gary Bahr said the grant helps further the important work already under way in the Columbia River Basin and around the state to monitor and improve water quality. 

The money also allows NRAS to expand its current work to the Palouse River and the Yakima River watershed where it will monitor surface water for agricultural pesticides, collect waste pesticides, and conduct targeted outreach in partnership with Conservation Districts.

“We will continue our work in the Yakima valley, where we have monitoring sites and have an active education and training program, Bahr said. “We’ll also begin new stream monitoring in the Palouse region in Eastern Washington, in partnership with the Palouse Conservation District.”

The watersheds were chosen because each is a unique agricultural production region in Washington and located upstream from critical habitat for species on the Endangered Species Act list. Sampling will look for more than 150 legacy and currently used pesticides, including DDT and its breakdown products. 

NRAS will partner with the WSDA Pesticide Management Division and Technical Services and Education Program (TSEP) for providing waste pesticide disposal collections, and pesticide education, applicator training, and sprayer calibration training. 

The Palouse Conservation District will collect the samples and work with NRAS to conduct outreach and promote pesticide applicator trainings and waste pesticide collection events.  The NRAS science group will lead the team to conduct coordinated work related to pesticide presence in the watershed and trends in pesticide usage, transport, and ways to protect water quality.

The grants are the first from the Columbia River Basin Restoration Funding Assistance Program which was established by Congress in 2016 as an addition to the Clean Water Act to reduce toxics that have long affected the health of the waters throughout the basin. 

Information about the other projects funded by the EPA grants for the Columbia River Basin watershed is available at the agency’s website

More information about NRAS and water quality monitoring in Washington State on WSDA’s website

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