Nitrate reduction project delayed by funding

A watershed group on P.E.I. is trying lay the groundwork for a program next spring to help farmers reduce the amount of runoff from farm fields, after having to scuttle plans when funding came late this spring.

Like pretty much every waterway on P.E.I., the Winter River has a problem with fertilizer run-off. The nitrates in the fertilizer threaten shellfish and wildlife, and it ends up in people's drinking water.

"It's really critical to the whole watershed," said Bruce Smith, coordinator of the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association.

The association tried to develop a program this spring to reduce run-off from farmers' fields, but the funding from Environment Canada, $50,00 over two years, was only half of what it asked for, and it didn't come until the end of June. By then it was too late and the project had to be scrapped.

"We've decided that we'll try again this year," said Smith.

"We're going to meet with farmers using volunteers from our board."

Over the winter those volunteers will meet with interested farmers and discuss the details of the project, so if and when funding is approved again, they'll be ready.

One of the volunteers is Lowell Vessey, an association board member and a farmer himself for more than 50 years. He wants to encourage other farmers to look for solutions to the nitrates problem.

"The last number of decades there if you're driving around PEI and have seen some of the condition that some of the watersheds are in," said Vessey, "too many nutrients into the water is part of the problem."

Smith said with new cultivation practices and a reduction in fertilizer application local farmers can help protect the water.

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