Dugout Creek stretches nearly 14 miles through Lincoln and Payne counties in central Oklahoma, an area of high cattle and wheat production as well as some dairy and poultry production. Poor grazing land and cropland management contributed to excess sedimentation in the watershed. In the 2004 water quality assessment, monitoring showed that 50 percent of Dugout Creek?s seasonal baseflow water samples exceeded 50 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU). On the basis of these assessment results, Oklahoma added the entire length of Dugout Creek to the 2004 and subsequent CWA section 303(d) lists for nonattainment of the fish and wildlife propagation designated use due to turbidity impairment.
Landowners implemented BMPs with assistance from Oklahoma?s locally led cost-share program and through the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and general technical assistance program. The main focus of the NRCS programs was grazing land improvement. To improve the condition of pasture and rangeland, prescribed grazing was implemented on 2,650 acres. Producers planted forage on 74 acres, supplemented rangeland plants on 114 acres, and improved upland wildlife habitat management on 203 acres. Seventy-seven acres received nutrient management plans, and 164 acres received waste utilization improvements. Brush management occurred on approximately 471 acres, with prescribed burning on 265 acres, and weed management was applied on 1,117 acres. From 2004 to 2007, mulch-till implementation occurred on 207 acres,
with additional seasonal residue management on 169 acres. In contrast to traditional tillage, this type of tillage retains soil moisture and reduces soil erosion by decreasing the amount of soil exposed to wind and rain. Further reducing erosion potential on cropland, landowners installed 2 grade stabilization structures, 5 acres of critical area planting, and 4 acres of grassed waterways. More recent conservation practices, installed after 2008, include 322 acres of upland wildlife habitat enhancement, 70 additional acres of mulch tillage, 636 acres of prescribed grazing, 192 acres of forage management, and 153 acres of brush management.
In addition, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission?s education program, Blue Thumb, actively promoted programs in the Dugout Creek watershed starting in 2005. A groundwater screening and information session was held in Lincoln County in addition to a volunteer training event held in Payne County. These activities provide vital education of the residents of the area and help facilitate behavior changes. Volunteers are actively monitoring eight sites in the two counties, and education is continuing in the area.
The Oklahoma Conservation Commission?s Rotating Basin Monitoring Program, a statewide nonpoint source ambient monitoring program, documented improved water quality in Dugout Creek due to landowners implementing BMPs. Because of the implemented practices and the accompanying education of landowners, turbidity decreased in the Dugout Creek watershed. In the 2006 assessment, 29 percent of seasonal base flow water samples exceeded the turbidity criteria of 50 NTU. It fell to 6 percent in the 2010 assessment. Hence, Dugout Creek has been recommended for removal from Oklahoma?s CWA section 303(d) list for its turbidity impairment and is now in full attainment of the fish and wildlife propagation designated use.