Federal Funds Put to Work Locally Through the Big Creek Watershed Cost-Share Program

Just to briefly introduce the idea of a watershed, it is an area of land where precipitation that falls on it drains to a common outlet. In the case of the Big Creek Watershed, this means that there are about 164,000 collective acres of Gibson, Posey, and Vanderburgh Counties (IN) that contribute surface water to the Big Creek. The common outlet for this land area is where the Big Creek meets the Wabash River, about 8 miles northwest of Mt. Vernon, Indiana. About 65% of the watershed’s land area is in Posey County, 26% in Vanderburgh County, and the remaining 9% is in Gibson County. It’s here, within the Big Creek Watershed, that federal grant funds are being put to work through the Big Creek Watershed Cost-Share Program.

The Big Creek Cost-Share Program is funded by a Section 319 grant that originates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The Section 319 program came about by an amendment to the federal Clean Water Act in 1987 that recognized the need to reduce non-point source pollution. Some examples of non-point source pollutants include: Road debris, oil drippings from automobiles, sediment from fields, or E-coli from failing septic systems that get washed from surfaces by rain or melting snow. These pollutants can then make their way into local streams and rivers where they can negatively impact wildlife habitat and human health. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) manages section 319 funds for the State and determines which Indiana Municipalities, Counties, or Organizations receive funding through an application and review process. Areas of that state that have been found to have significant pollution reduction needs take priority in IDEM’s decision making process. Due to local water quality impairment, funding for the Big Creek Watershed was secured in 2016 by the Posey County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Some Watershed programs focus more on urban areas but the Big Creek Cost-Share Program is only to be used to help pay for agricultural practices that help improve water quality. Since March of 2016, the cost-share program has used about $73,000 to help pay for the adoption of conservation practices in the watershed. This has included practices such as fall cover crops, heavy use area pads for livestock operations, and one Two-Stage ditch project. The program is expected to keep making cost-share payments until December of 2018 or until the money runs out. The Posey County SWCD is currently working on applying for additional Section 319 funds to supplement the original $175,000 allocated to the cost-share program.

There are 54 different practices that qualify for the cost-share program. In addition, the land that the practice is to be used on must be in a critical area of the watershed to qualify. Many of the particulars of the program are discussed at the public quarterly steering committee meetings. The Next meeting is scheduled for the evening of April 24th but a meeting location and time have not yet been confirmed.
Anyone with an interest in attending a steering committee meeting or in participating in the cost-share program is encouraged to contact Dennis L. Begeman, Big Creek Watershed Coordinator, Phone: 812-838-4191, Email: dennis.begeman@in.nacdnet.net

Southwest Regional Envirothon to be held at Toyota Visitor’s Center

The Southwest Regional Envirothon will be held Tuesday, March 14 at the Toyota Visitors Center, Princeton, IN. The event is hosted by the Posey, Gibson and Pike County SWCDs with assistance from other SW SWCDs.

The regional contest will be a little different this year. Instead of rotating through presentations on the five resources areas, the teams will split into two groups with half taking the test and half touring the Toyota plant. The teams will switch after a lunch featuring Toyota speakers. The event wraps up with an awards ceremony.

Teams of five high school students representing a school or organization compete at the contest by answering questions and building awareness in students by testing their knowledge of environmental resources including soils, water, forestry, wildlife and a current topic. A team can be coached by any adult that is interested in working with the high school students. The Indiana Academic Standards are taken into consideration in the construction of Indiana’s Envirothon Competition and are covered in part or fully at each contest, which is an environmental learning event. The Posey SWCD sponsors teams from Posey County by paying their fees for the regional contest. The deadline to register is February 24, 2017.

The top teams from each Regional Contest are invited to compete at the Indiana State Envirothon Contest. The 2017 state contest will be held Wednesday, April 26th at Camp Illiana, Washington, IN. The top winner from the State Contests is invited to attend the NCF Envirothon Contest to be held July 23 to July 29 at Mount St. Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland. For additional details call Jeri Ziliak at 812-838-4191, ext 3 or e-mail to jeri.ziliak@ in.nacdnet.net. Additional information is also available at http://iaswcd.org under events.

Local Conservation Project Receives International Attention

In 2014, the Vanderburgh and Posey County Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) decided to build a two-stage ditch in Southwest Indiana. They started seeking funds and were awarded a Clean Water Indiana (CWI) grant and a grant from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to complete this seemingly simple project. A planning committee was formed including Carrie Parmenter (Posey SWCD Technician), Mark Abell (Vanderburgh County SWCD Water Quality Specialist), Linda Voglund (Indiana State Department of Ag Resource Support Specialist), Brad Smith (The Nature Conservancy Lower Wabash and Wetlands Program Director) and Paul Breeze (then Posey County Surveyor). This committee spent countless hours researching possible locations for the two-stage ditch. Eventually, Metz Lateral was agreed upon as the location because of the proximately to a road, legal drain status and severity of the bank erosion.

The next step was to secure permission from the landowners. A meeting was held with landowners, Vectren Energy and Tom Metz, and the operators, Marvin Redman and Steve Reineke, to explain the project. Everyone was enthusiastic about the project and welcomed having the creek stabilized.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) volunteered to survey and design the two-stage ditch. After the initial survey, the design plan became complicated by the fact that the lower reaches of the stream became too deep and wide to make a two-stage ditch feasible. Eventually the design was able to be completed by Scott Wagner, NRCS Area Engineer, but approximately 750 feet remained untouched at the outlet of Metz Lateral.

The Posey County SWCD began applying for additional funding to stabilize the remaining 750 foot section. After being denied in 2015 and reapplying in 2016, the SWCD was awarded a Lake and River Enhancement grant (LARE) to design and build a stabilization structure on the southern end of Metz Lateral. The Nature Conservancy, the Posey County Drainage Board and the Posey County SWCD also contributed to the stabilization project. Wetland Services was awarded the bid to do the design/build on the lower section by the Drainage Board. The stabilization project has been surveyed and is currently being designed. Installation is anticipated in the summer of 2017.

In addition to the two-stage ditch and the stabilization project, the landowners and operators have utilized the Big Creek 319 Grant to install filter strips along the tops of the banks and plant cover crops last fall. The Big Creek 319 Grant was also used to pay for some additional expenses of the two-stage ditch that were not covered by the CWI grant.

In November, 2016, the two-stage ditch portion of Metz Lateral was completed and a workshop to showcase the project drew in 50+ participants. After this successful workshop, the International Society of Soil and Water Conservation announced they were seeking presenters for the 2017 Annual Conference which is to be held in Madison, WI in July, 2017. Scott Wagner and Carrie Parmenter approached the Society to see if they would be interested in the Metz Lateral project.

The International Society of Soil and Water Conservation did select the Metz Lateral Conservation project to be presented at the Annual Conference. This unique experience of 14 different private, corporate and government partners working together to create a comprehensive conservation project will be presented to the international audience this summer.

Anyone wishing to see the project can find an informational sign on the Pfieffer Road bridge in central Posey County or you can contact the Posey or Vanderburgh County SWCD offices for more information.

Big Creek Watershed Cost-Share Funding is Going Well

In January of 2016, the Posey County Soil & Water Conservation District was awarded a Section 319 Grant by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The purpose of the grant is to fund soil and water conservation measures within the Big Creek Watershed. There are two ways in particular that these funds are used to do this. The first way is to fund a public outreach and education program that encourages behaviors that protect soil health and water quality. Second, the funds are used for a cost-share program that funds agricultural best management practices that help to protect soil and water quality.

So far, of the $33,498 that have been used to help fund agricultural best management practices, $22,992 have been used to fund cover crops that have been planted on nearly 1235 acres. The remaining $10,506 was used to help fund a Two-Stage Ditch project that was the product of a collaborative effort between the Vanderburgh and Posey County Soil & Water Conservation Districts. Aside from what has already been funded, applications for another $17,028 worth of projects are being processed. About $4,822 of these are for livestock practices and the remaining $12,206 are to fund about 400 acres of additional cover crops.

The Big Creek Watershed drains portions of Gibson, Posey, and Vanderburgh Counties. About 65% of the watershed lays in Posey County, 26% lays in Vanderburgh County and the remaining 9% lays in Gibson County. At this point, about 80% of the funded projects are in Posey County with the remaining 20% in Vanderburgh County and no current projects in Gibson County. Ideally, the program would like to fund each of the three Counties proportionally according to their land area within the Big Creek Watershed. In order to help promote the program in way that encourages proportional participation, a targeted mailing campaign is scheduled for the winter of 2016/2017. Anyone with interest in the Big Creek Watershed program is encouraged to contact Dennis L. Begeman, Big Creek Watershed Coordinator at (812) 838-4191 or dennis.begeman@in.nacdnet.net.