PENDLETON - More than $38,000 is available to the Birch Creek Project in Umatilla County this fiscal year.

It is part of nearly $58 million the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced for water conservation and water quality improvements on agricultural lands through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program.

The Birch Creek Project is among eight in Oregon and 63 funded nationally. The money is intended to help agricultural operators improve irrigation efficiency and fish habitat on the East Fork of Birch Creek.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting applications for fiscal 2009 funding until Friday. Loren Unruh of the NRCS in Pendleton encourages producers to apply now. He said applications received after Friday will not be considered for funding this year and will be held for evaluation in 2010, pending availability of funds.

The program promotes ground and surface water conservation and improves water quality by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities.

It allows the agency to leverage the federal investment in natural resources conservation with the services and resources of other conservation partners. The Umatilla Basin Watershed Council is the project partner for the Birch Creek Project.

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