“Most of the time it is farmers,” district conservationist Chase Hicks said. “We will get calls from people in neighborhoods who just have water issues ... most of the time we go out there and try to tell them why (their yard is flooding) ... just basic ideas.”
Many times regrading an area or redirecting the flow of water may be able to prevent a person’s yard from flooding, Hicks said.
The conservationist estimates the Bradley County office serves 150 property owners a year.
Hicks said any community member facing soil erosion or water quality issues can call the office with questions.
“We have engineers on staff who don’t mind coming out. It may take awhile but, free of charge, they will come out. If something needs to be surveyed and they need a design for a grass waterway or something to control erosion, we can provide that,” Hicks said.
There are two engineers who work with offices in Southeast Tennessee. After designs are worked out, the project is in the hands of the Bradley County Soil Conservation District and the property owners. Hicks said the district’s role is to help with ideas and provide cost assistance when applicable, not to complete the project.
Soil conservation technician Jim Ledford said the most common soil erosion and water quality issues in Bradley County arise from industry and development.
The district also encourages best practices in farming and poultry operations, with funding available for implementing projects. This is made possible through state and federal funding.
Hicks said state funding for “cost sharing” is distributed on a “first-come, first-served basis.” Decisions on which projects to fund are made by the Bradley County Soil Conservation District board. To be eligible for assistance, a farmer must be registered with the USDA Farm Service Agency. This can be done at the Bradley County Soil Conservation District.
Some of the “best practices” include stream crossings, rotational grazing, using innovative cattle watering techniques and seeding tips for pasture improvement.
“We try to get the producers to fence their livestock out of the creeks,” Hicks said. This helps preserve the creek’s water quality.
“Anytime we can enhance water quality, that is our main focus in this part of the state,” Hicks said.
He said soil erosion is a bigger concern in West Tennessee, where farmers grow more crops.
When poultry farmers are planning to build a new poultry house, the district’s soil scientists can do soil tests to determine the best location. The soil scientist also helps in the identification of wetlands.
“Anytime that anyone is building a house I would highly suggest looking at a soils map,” Hicks said.
(Soils maps can be accessed online at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov.)
Ledford said the district also helps preserve water quality by encouraging farmers to use waste management systems. He said these systems keep manure from getting in streams. Poultry droppings can then be used to fertilize pastures or crops.
Energy conservation best practices are also encouraged.
“Energy was a new focus last year,” Hicks said.
For a poultry house, energy efficency can be achieved by replacing fluorescent lights with LED lighting, adding insulation and controlling the heat distribution. Hicks said attic inlets can be used to pull the heat from the attic in a poultry house to keep the poultry warm.
Ledford said for a dairy farm the heat taken out of milk to keep it cool can be tranformed to a water heater for washing the barn or tools.
“We furnish cost assistance of this, too,” Ledford said.
The office also helps farmers apply for needed permits and fill in sinkholes.The district also partners with many organizations in the area that have similar goals.
The Bradley County Soil Conservation District is located on Stuart Road in the USDA field office, and can be reached at 423-472-5731.