Creekside Conservation Program

A partnership to conserve soil and water in the lower Colorado River basin

The problem of soil erosion on farms, ranches and rangeland in the lower Colorado River basin can be attributed to overgrazing, a lack of vegetative, or riparian, buffers along creeks and other waterways, and the spread of invasive brush species that choke out native vegetation. As a result, thousands of acres of valuable soil wash into the waterways of the lower Colorado River basin every year. The result is build-up of sediment, which can harm water quality, worsen flooding and threaten aquatic habitats.

One of LCRA's first responsibilities when it was created in 1934 was soil conservation. Through the Creekside Conservation Program, LCRA continues to work with landowners and state and federal agencies to reduce sedimentation and agricultural nonpoint-source pollution on privately owned land in 11 counties along the Colorado River. The program is offered to landowners in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Colorado, Fayette, Lampasas, Llano, Matagorda, San Saba, Travis and Wharton counties.

Managing lands to prevent soil erosion and increase rainfall absorption

The Creekside Conservation Program provides matching grants to landowners for pre-approved land management projects such as brush management, slope stabilization, vegetative or riparian buffers along creeks and other waterways, field terracing, sustainable range seeding, land shaping, and rotational grazing systems.

Farmers, ranchers and other landowners who manage their lands to conserve soil and water can reduce the use of chemicals, save money and increase the value of their lands. Other benefits include improved vegetative cover that will hold soil, increase land productivity, filter groundwater and enhance wildlife habitat.

How the Creekside Conservation Program works

Landowners may receive up to 50 percent of the cost of pre-approved soil and water conservation and land management projects through the program. The local office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps owners plan the projects, and LCRA provides the matching funds.

There are three steps:

  1. Landowners must first contact their local NRCS office. The NRCS identifies and selects projects that qualify for matching funds based on the severity of the problem, the project's compatibility with the program's objectives, and the availability of other funding sources.
  2. The NRCS submits the plans for each project to the local Soil and Water Conservation District for review and approval. After a project is approved by the district, the NRCS submits it to LCRA for final approval.
  3. Upon successful completion of the project, the landowner is reimbursed as much as one-half the actual cost. The NRCS and LCRA review projects annually for three years to monitor success.

To apply, contact your local NRCS office. For more information, email LCRA's Land Conservation or call 1-800-776-5272, Ext. 7220​.

Success stories

Stories on landowners who are tapping an LCRA program to implement best management land conservation practices:

Ways to prevent erosion

To help prevent runoff of soil, farmers and ranchers may use intensive practices such as:

  • Contour buffer strips — land near a body of water with natural vegetation that is not plowed or farmed.
  • Critical area planting — grasses, legumes, trees and shrubs planted to prevent erosion in small, isolated areas.
  • Diversions — earthen embankments across a slope that diverts runoff from an area where water is unwanted to an area where water is useful.
  • Field borders — a type of "picture frame" around a field. These control erosion at field edges and the ends of row crops, as well as turning areas for equipment.
  • Riparian herbaceous cover — an ecosystem along water bodies consisting of grasses, grasslike plants and forbs. Compare with riparian forest buffers, which are trees or shrubs located adjacent to and up-gradient from water bodies.
  • Filter strips — use of grass or other vegetation to filter runoff and remove sediment before it can reach water bodies.
  • Grade stabilization structures — concrete, metal or rock structures that allow water to drop safely to a lower elevation.
  • Grassed waterways — waterways through fields which allow water to be filtered and cleaned by the vegetation.
  • Terraces — earth embankments around a hillside to stop water flow and store or guide it safely off a field.
  • Water and sediment control basins — trap runoff water temporarily and let the sediment settle before reaching a body of water.

Source: Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board

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