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EPA Awards $400,000 for Western Lake Erie Basin Improvement
Indiana Ag Connection - 12/05/2018

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Indiana State Department of Agriculture more than $400,000 to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The grants were distributed through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Great Lakes Commission.

"This funding reinforces the critical work being done in the Western Lake Erie Basin," said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, Indiana's Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. "We have a long road ahead, but every action taken to improve water quality, whether large or small, is a step in the right direction."

Lake Erie's western basin is one of the nation's most significant collections of inland rivers and streams. It encompasses nearly 7 million acres, gathering water from farms, fields, towns and cities in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

Although Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume, it provides drinking water for approximately 14 million people, boasts the most productive fisheries and is an economic engine for the region, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"With six Indiana counties feeding into Lake Erie, we have a responsibility to conserve this important natural resource," said Bruce Kettler, ISDA Director. "Our department devotes more resources to the Western Lake Erie Basin than any other part of the state, and we'll continue to focus our attention on this area moving forward."

For decades, landowners, as well as public, private and non-profits organizations, from all three states, have been working to improve water quality in the basin. Despite the increased adoption of conservation on the ground, algal blooms continue to form, which can be harmful to the local wildlife and tourism industries.

Many factors can contribute to the formation of these blooms, such as water temperature, heavy rainfall and lack of agitation. Nutrient runoff is another contributor and one of the main areas the grants work to address. "Through these grants, we'll be able to offer workshops and soil testing to help farmers better understand the condition of their soil," said Lindsey Bluhm, ISDA resource specialist. "We know they can't change everything about their operation overnight, but small adjustments over time can have a really big impact. We can help them identify those."

The following list includes the grants awarded to the department.

- $125,961 The grant will be used by ISDA to provide landowners with nutrient management planning support, and expand soil and manure testing in the St. Marys River watershed. It will also be used to work with certified crop advisors and agriculture retailers to incorporate and offer nutrient management as part of their services.

- $190,319 The grant will be used by ISDA to promote the 4R principles in Amish communities in the St. Marys River and Upper Maumee watersheds. It will also be used to provide landowners with nutrient management support, expand soil and manure testing, provide funds for a cost-share program on cover crops and hold workshops utilizing 4R champions.

- $125,961 The grant will be used to organize a Blue Creek Task Force, which will focus on leveraging resources, providing guidance on land treatment approaches and sharing information on cutting edge technologies. In part, the grant will also be used to reorganize and revitalize the St. Mary's Watershed Steering Committee, work with local agriculture retailers to hold workshops and outreach events and purchase Soil Health Quality kits.

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