The Nature Conservancy has scheduled a meeting for upper Shoal Creek landowners in parts of Newton and Barry counties about restoration and protection efforts, and possible funding.

The group recently received a grant of $207,395 from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to help landowners over the next three years with stream bank stabilization, with replanting of grasses and trees along the creek, and also with fencing off cattle and providing alternative water systems for cattle.

Landowners along Shoal Creek tributaries including Capps Creek, Joyce Creek, Pogue Creek and Woodward Branch are eligible.

The meeting will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Wheaton High School agricultural classroom.

The Nature Conservancy is coordinating its efforts with the Barry County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Participation is voluntary.

Drew Holt, project manager with the conservancy, said landowners typically have a 25 percent cost share when applying for state or federal funding for river improvement and river corridor restoration projects.

According to Holt, a landowner who uses bioengineering or natural methods for stream bank stabilization, rather than rock riprap, for example, is eligible for funding to help cover his or her part of that cost share. A landowner who extends the depth of the riparian buffer from 50 feet to 100 feet and meets other conditions could receive additional funding. Holt said landowners could reduce their part of the cost share to zero with grant money.

Holt is the western Ozark waters coordinator for The Nature Conservancy, which in 2015 announced a partnership with Tyson Foods, based in Springdale, Arkansas, to focus on water conservation and stewardship for four river systems in the western Ozarks: the Elk and Spring rivers in Missouri as well as the Kings and Buffalo rivers in Arkansas. Shoal Creek is the largest tributary of Spring River, as well as being the source of drinking water for Joplin and Neosho.

The Nature Conservancy has said the western Ozarks has globally unique and irreplaceable freshwater systems with a high diversity of aquatic life.

The group has been meeting with stakeholders along these rivers, including a meeting in Joplin in 2017, to discuss the initiative for Shoal Creek, and worked to plant thousands of trees along Elk River, as well as put together forums for landowners and other stakeholders in that watershed.

The Nature Conservancy also put together a demonstration project for Elk River using what Holt called “state-of-the-art bioengineering techniques” instead of the rock riprap. That method includes terracing, using natural materials such as logs, mats made of branches and “toe wood," which are root wads, and boulders to stabilize the banks. The goal of the latter is to mimic natural systems to stabilize stream banks and to do so in ways that create additional riparian habitat.

Landowners may contact Holt at 417-838-1939 or via email at drew.holt@tnc.org with questions, or to RSVP so he can accurately plan materials and refreshments for the meeting.

Andy Ostmeyer is the metro editor at the Globe. His email address is aostmeyer@joplinglobe.com.

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