Oklahoma Water Resources Center

OSU researchers earn $600,000 USDA grant to study sediment in Fort Cobb watershed

12/12/2013

A team of Oklahoma State University researchers is set to study the best strategies for safeguarding water supplies in Oklahoma and the Midwest after earning a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant totaling more than a half million dollars.

OSU’s Garey Fox is leading a team of university and USDA-ARS researchers studying the best ways to protect water supplies in Oklahoma and the Midwest. The three-year project is being funded by a $638,000 USDA grant.

The three-year grant of $638,000 was awarded this fall through the USDA’s National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP) and will include researchers from the OSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE), OSU Department of Agricultural Economics and the USDA-Agricultural Research Center (ARS) Grazing Lands Research Station in El Reno.

“This research focuses on the long-term protection of water supplies,” said Garey Fox, project director, professor and Buchanan Endowed Chair in BAE. “Those supplies could be used for drinking water, recreation and irrigation. We’re trying to develop the best strategies to prevent excess sediment from getting into reservoirs and causing them to decline or fill up, shortening their life spans or projected capacity.”

Joining Fox on the research team Dan Storm and Jason Vogel of BAE; Tracy Boyer, Larry Sanders and Art Stoecker of Agricultural Economics; and Daniel Moriasi, Patrick Starks and Jean Steiner of the USDA-ARS.

While studies now show as much as 80 percent of the sediment load entering streams in some watersheds is coming from stream banks, attempts to control sediment loads have often focused almost exclusively on implementing upland practices.

OSU and USDA-ARS researchers plan to expand that approach to look at the most effective combination of upland, in-stream and riparian erosion strategies to reduce sediment loads reaching Fort Cobb Reservoir in southwest Oklahoma.

As part of the project, the research team will aerially survey the watershed’s stream banks, work with landowners to evaluate the strength of stream banks within the watershed and model the impact of in-stream sediment load reduction strategies.

“We hope to provide a framework and tools for other watersheds in Oklahoma and in the Midwest to use to prevent sediment from getting into our streams and reservoirs,” Fox said.

Although this is Fox’s fourth significant USDA award, it is his first NIWQP grant. It will require the team to focus on pushing the science while also paying attention to the real world application of that science.

To that end, agricultural economics faculty on the project will examine the costs associated with different strategies as well as survey landowners, watershed managers, government officials and other stakeholders on the potential determinants to adopting the practices.

“It’s great if we can show there are certain in-stream practices we can use to stabilize streams,” Fox said. “But that has no meaning if it’s going to cost a lot of money or there’s some other determinant that keeps the landowner from adopting those strategies because they are not practical for the way he or she wants to manage the property.”

The project also includes an educational component. In addition to partnering with the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service to offer workshops on effective in-stream and stream bank strategies, the research team will visit schools in the watershed and work with children in the Caddo Nation to demonstrate erosion and stabilization practices.

Ultimately, Fox believes the project will firmly establish OSU as a leading authority throughout the Midwest in the field of stream bank protection, stream bank stabilization and modeling of erosion processes.

“There’s been a lot of work done east of the Mississippi and in the western part of the United States, but there hasn’t been as much done in the Midwest,” he said. “My vision is that this grant will help us build our expertise as it relates to this field and this region of the county.”

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Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.

REPORTER/MEDIA CONTACT:
Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
140 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu

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