Just before Christmas word leaked out that Indiana was one of 12 states that would participate in what's known as the Mississippi River Basin Initiative. Now, meetings are being set up to garner input as to how to best organize and administer these programs.
Federal officials hope that improving the conservation ethic within the watersheds feeding the Mississippi River Basin will cut down on the amount of sediments and nutrients that reach the Gulf of Mexico each year. For many years, environmentalists have warned about the dangers of what's called hypoxia. In layman's terms, it's a condition whereby waters have more nutrients than desired, and a shortage of oxygen develops, affecting aquatic life within the watershed. Some claim that nutrients, particularly nitrogen, entering in tributaries in the Midwest and northern reaches of the Mississippi Basin contribute to the problem.
Mike McGovern, communications specialist with the National Resources Conservation Service in Indiana, says that the MRBI project could mean more Indiana farmers and landowners have access to funds to do more conservation projects than might otherwise get done. Many of the projects will be the same as those done through many watershed projects. The goal is to avoid runoff, control runoff and trap runoff of nutrients, while improving wildlife habitat and maintaining ag productivity all at the same time.
If there's a catch, it's that the program is limited to six watersheds in Indiana. Those are the Eel in northeast Indiana, the Upper Wabash in north central and northeast Indiana, the Upper Great Miami in eastern Indiana, the Wildcat in the Kokomo area, the Vermillion watershed, which also runs into Illinois, and the Upper East Fork of the White River in south-central Indiana.
Two meetings are planned to discuss this project in ore detail, notes Pam Davidson, also with NRCS in Indianapolis. These meetings are designed to inform those who will be affected by the project about opportunities and possibilities to participate. Partner organizations are invited to help target where and how funds in these watersheds are used. These meetings will help in that process, Davidson notes.
Meetings are slated for Thursday, Jan 21 at the Wabash REMC in Wabash and Tuesday, Jan 26 at the Bartholomew County Extension Office in Columbus. Both meetings are slated to run form 9 a.m. to noon EST.
For more details, visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi_overview.html.