Mackinaw River Drinking Watersheds Project: Questions and Answers

Q: Why should I consider enrolling land in CRP’s Farmable Wetland Program to construct a wetland to treat tile drainage water (CP39)?

A: While tile drainage is necessary for row crop production in much of McLean County, the water passing through the drainage system can have high nitrogen concentrations. If left untreated, this water flows into waterways, like Money Creek and Six Mile Creek, eventually flowing into our drinking water reservoirs, Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake. As tile drainage water flows through a constructed wetland, microbes consume roughly half of the nitrogen in the water, making the water much cleaner. The wetlands also provide additional beauty to the farm and attract wildlife, such as ???

Q: If I enroll land in CRP CP39 to construct a wetland to treat tile drainage water, can I remove the wetland after the expiration of the CRP contract if I choose to?

A: Yes, you can remove the wetland after the expiration of the CRP contract within 5 years pursuant to nationwide permit 27 and return the land to its prior condition. For more information, contact the Rock Island District at 309-794-5057.

Q: Would there be a Swampbuster (conservation compliance) issue if I choose to revert the wetland to the land’s prior condition as farmland after expiration of the CRP contract?

A: No, enrolling land in CRP, even for a wetland practice, does not cause a change in status for Swampbuster purposes. The farmland is not considered “abandoned” and thus does not revert to wetland status for conservation compliance/Swampbuster purposes.

Q: Is there much flexibility regarding where a CRP CP39 constructed wetland can go on my farm?

A: Yes. Landowners work with McLean County SWCD and McLean County NRCS to identify suitable locations for constructed wetlands (e.g., proximity to drain tile, appropriate soils, etc). Land eligibility requirements for CRP enrollment are more flexible for constructed wetlands; land that meets either cropping history or marginal pastureland requirements is eligible.

Q: Can I put a wetland in an existing CRP grass filter strip?

A: Yes.  Landowners can work with McLean County SWCD and McLean County NRCS to submit a waiver request to FSA asking FSA to waive the past payments and penalties that would otherwise be required for early termination of a CRP contract. The waiver request would need to be approved by the FSA County Committee.  Essentially, the area of buffer that would be used as wetland would be removed from CRP buffer (CP21) and would be immediately re-enrolled in CRP wetland (CP39).

Q: Can I put in a CRP CP39 constructed wetland without taking much cropland out of production?

A: The answer varies depending upon the particular location and how big a drainage area the wetland receives flow from, but typically wetland pools range from under an acre to a few acres in size plus an upland buffer (the size of the buffer is determined working with NRCS). Also, it is important to bear in mind that it may be possible to site the wetland on low productivity areas, such as marginal pastureland, or in existing CRP grass filter strips.

Q: Will my constructed wetland interfere with the effectiveness of my tile drainage system?

A: No, these wetlands are designed not to interfere with the function of the drainage system.

Q: Will my constructed wetland pose problems, like increasing mosquito populations?

A: No, dragonflies and birds typically control the mosquito populations, so this has not proven to be a problem for landowners.

Q: How long should I expect the process of enrolling in CRP CP39 and constructing the wetland to take?

A: McLean County FSA, McLean County NRCS and McLean County SWCD are working together to expedite the enrollment process, but siting, surveying, designing and constructing these wetlands can take time, possibly 6-12 months.