Hemp is set to play a significant role in a major water quality improvement project in the US city of Decatur.
The City of Decatur has been awarded a $9,883,117 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for the Lake Decatur Water Quality Initiative.
Lake Decatur is a 2,800-acre reservoir located in the city of Decatur, Illinois. Created in 1920–1922, the lake was constructed as a source of water for the city. Since that time, the lake has experienced extensive silt problems, requiring costly dredging. Much of this silt has come from farmland in the catchment.
Back in 2018, The City of Decatur completed a four-year long dredging effort that boosted the storage capacity of the lake by 30%. The cost of the dredging: $91 million.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that’s where hemp may come into play. The crop can be grown at a high density and has a deep root system, helping to stabilise soils and reducing the amount washed away during rain events.
A pilot project supported by the National Hemp Association (NHA) and Hemp Innovations Foundation (HIF) will see hemp planted in targeted sub watersheds and land parcels.
“The effort will accelerate the hemp industry in Illinois and demonstrate the positive environmental and economic benefits,” says the NHA. “We strongly believe hemp can become a viable crop in the Midwest and be effectively integrated into a farming system largely dominated by corn and soybeans.”
The overall project aims to reduce up to 50% of the sediment and 20% of the nitrate nitrogen annually flowing into Lake Decatur. Reducing nitrogen flowing into the lake is also very important as high nitrate levels promote the blooming of algae, which can starve aquatic environments of oxygen as the algae dies and decomposes. Some types of algal blooms are also toxic to humans and other animals.
The NHA and HIF will be providing technical assistance, in-kind partner contributions and an unspecified cash contribution over the 5 years of this project.
The Illinois Hemp Growers Association is excited that the plans for the RCPP Lake Decatur Water Quality Initiative have been approved
“The grant funding for this project gives an opportunity for hemp to be highlighted as a proven ally to farmers and the environment,” said the Association’s Rachel Berry.