It takes money to do conservation work and impact the local environment in an entire watershed. But it also takes lots of cooperation with farmer, landowners and soil conservation staff from various agencies. Throw in time and patience, and pulling off a watershed project and making a difference is not an easy task.
One of the most common programs that soil and water conservation districts have used to improve watersheds over the past two decades are what are known as 319 grants. The money is federal money allocated by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, awardees are selected by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. IDEM staff are also then responsible for following up and making sure the grant is carried out. Sometimes a grant is granted a second three-year extension if progress is being made and natural resource concerns are being met.
In Clinton County, one 319 grant that has been in place for a while in the South Fork Wildcat Creek-Blinn Ditch & Kilmore Creek-Boyles Ditch project. The first thing that happens is steering committees form and then the area is inventoried as to existing resources and need. That process can take a year or more. Then cost-share follows. The steering committee usually picks practices and cost-share that matches the most important needs in that watershed.
This particular project is nearing completion, with cost-share money still available through March 2011, but with funds being used rapidly. You must farm land in the watershed to qualify. This is similar to dozens of watershed projects scattered around Indiana.
So far, Clinton County Conservation staff estimate that cost-share practices already in place through this program have saved 1,602 tons of sediment, 3,6609 pounds of nitrogen and 2,048 pounds of phosphorus from entering streams and waterways annually. That amount of cost-share varies by practice, form 50% for flow meters to 75% for riparian buffers, filter strips, and fence to exclude livestock form water bodies, plus 75% for installing concrete or gravel heavy—use pads where cattle congregate.
The Clinton County District is now cooperating with other districts on a new project, the South Fork Wildcat Creek Watershed. It is in the planning stage. Problems known to exist there include impaired biotic communities, high levels of E.coli bacteria, excessive levels of atrazine and low levels of dissolved oxygen. IDEM estimates that 45% of all stream segments within the South Fork Wildcat Creek are impaired.
Planning will hopefully turn into cost-sharing as it has for the earlier watershed project. Congratulations to the Clinton County district and staff for tackling two watersheds at the same time.