Dewey County Conservation District Hosts Legislative Tour of Conservation Projects
|Left to right (facing), Senator Bryce Marlatt, Representative Mike Sanders, and Kim Farber of OACD, listen to Clay Pope of OACD and Coleta Bratten of DCCD explain the Conservation Cost-Share Program.
|DCCD board member Jimmy Emmons and OCC executive director Mike Thralls inspect a livestock water tank supplied by a solar-powered pump funded by the OCC’s locally-led cost-share program.
Oklahoma Senator Bryce Marlatt and Representative Mike Sanders attended a tour of several conservation projects in Dewey County on October 3, 2013, in an effort to better understand farming and watershed challenges facing constituents. The tour was led by Coleta Bratten and Jimmy Emmons of the Dewey County Conservation District (DCCD) and attended by members from the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC).
Tour highlights included a demonstration of no-till farming, a visit to the Kauk Pond rehabilitation site, and a view of the Barnitz #1 flood control rehabilitation project, where the benefits of OCC’s locally-led cost-share program were discussed.
At his no-till farm, Emmons explained how no-till practices have dramatically reduced topsoil erosion and increased soil moisture retention and health. “We need to stop thinking of soil as just dirt,” Emmons said, gesturing across his field. “This is a living breathing organism, and we have to take care of it.”
As an example of how conventional tillage threatens topsoil, Emmons explained how a neighboring farmer’s topsoil had to be recovered from the road by the truckload after heavy rains. The man’s neighbors on either side—who practice no-till farming—reported zero erosion after the rain. “No-till seems like it’s a lot more responsible,” said Senator Marlatt. “I think once it’s not new to everyone, and they’re comfortable with it, I think it’s the way to go.”
At Kauk Pond, the tour group witnessed the importance of tree management to the water supply. Bratten explained that Kauk Pond had been nearly or completely dry for over seven years. She said many didn’t know the tree-littered depression had ever been a pond in the first place. After most of the trees were cleared away, rain water and a natural spring have been able to keep the pond consistently full. The new supply has allowed the landowner to sell water three times, with no end in sight.
Bratten described the conservation district’s struggle in fighting the invasive cedar tree population with prescribed burns. The trees deplete water supplies, encroach on workable farmland, and produce high levels of pollen that affect many members of the public.
Flood Control Dam
Donning hard hats at the Barnitz #1 flood control dam, tour attendees drove through the active construction site where the district is expanding and rehabilitating the dam to last 100 more years. Dams like this play an essential role in protecting Oklahomans and their property from flooding.
Upon leaving the construction area, the group got to stretch its legs and inspect a cattle watering tank with a solar-powered pump that was funded by the OCC cost-share program. This program works by providing financial assistance to land owners to implement landuse best management practices (BMPs).
As the tour concluded, Representative Sanders described what he saw as fantastic. “Dewey County has one of the best conservation programs in the state,” he said. “And I think they should be the model for everyone else on how a program should be run.”