The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded $1 million to the Stillaguamish Tribe for an innovative project in dairy nutrient management.

In Washington state, the Stillaguamish Tribe was the lone recipient of a nationally funded Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG).

“The CIG program provides seed money to help spur cutting-edge projects,” said NRCS Washington’s Acting State Conservationist Alan McBee. “We are excited to partner with the Stillaguamish Tribe and see the results of this state-of-the-art project.”

The tribe proposes to demonstrate successful implementation of an emerging animal nutrient treatment system for dairy farms. The technology, originally developed to address human waste in developing countries, is now being adapted to treat dairy nutrients.

“The machine is going to be a template, a prototype you can set up anywhere,” said Pat Stevenson, environmental manager for the Stillaguamish Tribe. “Our hope is that with this technology we can move away from storing manure in lagoons that can leak into the watershed.”

The advanced distillation and nutrient separation processor converts dairy wastewater into clean, distilled reclaimed water, with liquid ammonia and nutrient-rich solid material byproducts that can be used for agricultural purposes.

“Dairy manure, failing septic tanks, and fecal impacts from other mammals and birds all combine to lead to closed shellfish beds,” said Stevenson. “The dairy processor will also remove excess nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that have been attributed to increasing ocean acidification.”

The system will be built by Janicki Bioenergy of Sedro-Woolley, at Natural Milk Dairy in Stanwood. With a herd of about 3,000 cows, Natural Milk Dairy is the largest dairy farm in the watershed.

“Being a good steward of our natural resources is important to dairy farmers because we have a holistic relationship with the land, water and all our resources,” said Jeremy Visser, owner of Natural Milk Dairy.

NRCS is investing in 33 projects nationwide through the CIG program. Public and private grantees – including non-governmental organizations, American Indian tribes, academic institutions and local government entities – will leverage the federal investment by at least matching it.

CIG is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The maximum grant is $2 million per project, and the length of time for project completion is three years.

The CIG projects are designed to engage EQIP-eligible producers in on-the-ground conservation activities that speed up the transfer and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches. The NRCS uses CIG to work with other public and private entities to accelerate transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns.

Cooperating partners on the Stillaguamish Tribe’s project include the Washington State Dairy Federation, the Alliance for Puget Sound Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy, Janicki Bioenergy, Washington State Conservation Commission, American Farmland Trust, and the Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold, Inc.

For more information about the CIG program, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.

Contact: Gina Kerzman, Public Affairs Officer, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 509-323-2911 or gina.kerzman@wa.usda.gov; Kari Neumeyer, Information Officer, NWIFC, 360-528-4406 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org.