Pigeon Creek Watershed Steering Committee

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Phase Two Implementation of the Pigeon Creek Watershed Management Plan - Steuben County, Indiana

In 2009, the Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) embarked on an exciting, three year journey. We were awarded an Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Section 319 Grant, for Phase Two Implementation of the Pigeon Creek Watershed Management Plan. Grants aren’t new to us, and neither is partnering with a cooperating agency to make a grant successful. However, this grant will involve many different partners and various facets to demonstrate to stakeholders in the Pigeon Creek Watershed, and the rest of the county, how both agricultural and urban best management practices can be used to improve water quality. The SWCD hopes to use this grant as a demonstration of how we can work together as agencies, and as a community. We are hoping to have a snowball effect on future water quality projects, and whet the community’s appetite for improving their watershed.

Some Background Info: The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) distributes funds to each state as part of the Clean Water Act. IDEM’s Office of Water Quality then uses some of these funds to provide grants to applicants who demonstrate a need to address water quality issues in their watershed. In order to be able to apply for implementation money, the watershed must have a management plan. There are grants from IDEM to fund completion of a management plan, but these can only be applied for if there are impaired water bodies within the watershed.

Getting the Management Plan Funded: In 2004, there were five streams or lakes within the Pigeon Creek Watershed listed on the IDEM 303 (d) list of impaired water bodies. The SWCD and Steuben County Commissioners applied for IDEM funding for the Pigeon Creek Watershed Management Plan. Funding was received and the Plan was completed in 2006. Funding from this grant also helped fund continuing development of the County Geographic Information System (GIS) for the County. During the two years the plan was researched and developed, a core Pigeon Creek Watershed Steering Committee formed from concerned stakeholders in the watershed to help guide preparation of the Management Plan, priorities, and future goals. These stakeholders included residents in the watershed and various agency representatives. This committee is still active and will begin meets quarterly.

Phase One Implementation: In 2005, as the Management Plan was being developed, the County applied for an IDEM grant for Phase One Implementation with support from the SWCD. This grant was awarded, and in November, 2006, Phase One Implementation began. During this phase, a person, funded through the grant, was hired to work out of the Steuben County Surveyor’s office to promote and offer cost-share assistance for the installation of Filter Strips, Water and Sediment Control Basins (WASCOB’s), Grassed Waterways, and Drop Inlet Structures throughout the Pigeon Creek Watershed. These are all best management practices (BMPs) listed in the Management Plan as ways to improve water quality. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the SWCD provided technical advice and assistance throughout this two-year grant.

Phase Two Implementation: Now, we were ready for Phase Two Implementation. Planning for Phase Two was a monumental task. During planning meetings, discussion started to revolve around going in a different direction than Phase One. Although Phase One was successful, and we wanted to continue this work, different partners began to emerge with many needs and concerns, both agricultural and urban. We decided to use Phase Two Implementation to demonstrate the value of the Pigeon Creek Watershed Management Plan in several different ways and with multiple partners to showcase a variety of BMPs and other necessary water quality information. The SWCD has served as the coordinating agency for the various partners throughout this process, so it was decided that we would apply for Phase Two Implementation funding in September, 2008.

This grant involves four different sections, with many partners, to demonstrate many best management practices:

Section 1 The first section involves partnering with the City of Angola (COA) and the COA/Trine University Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), to install rain gardens and green roofs, and begin a rain barrel distribution program in priority areas of the city. Because the Rain Gardens and Green Roofs are capable of capturing and retaining the first 1 inch of rainfall, these urban BMPs have the potential to capture a significant portion of most rain events. This will directly benefit the watershed by reducing peak flows, total flows, and stream velocities, and thus, stream bank erosion and consequential sedimentation. In addition, rainfall that exceeds the capacity of the green roof is often cleaner and cooler than rain from a typical flat roof, reducing pollutant loading to the receiving stream. Rain barrels also capture roof runoff, reducing the amount of water going into the storm drains. This will be a demonstration of what can be done with these urban practices with hopes of expanding the program in the future.

Section 2 Section two continues our work with NRCS and the Surveyor’s office to implement agricultural BMP’s. The SWCD plans to continue the installation of WASCOB’s and filter strips in priority areas; work that was begun in Phase One. We are also planning on installing a wetland and stabilizing a section of stream bank within the watershed. All of these practices work to reduce sedimentation into our water bodies. Many also capture and reduce excess pesticides and nutrients from entering surface or ground water. These practices also provide a beneficial habitat for insects which can also reduce the need for pesticides.

Section 3 The third section involves a topic of great interest throughout the county recently: Septic Systems. Failing Septic Systems were listed in the Pigeon Creek Watershed Management Plan as an area of concern. The Health Department and SWCD plan to hire a part-time education person to be based in the Health Department to speak to local residents and students and educate them about septic system problems and maintenance, and other water quality issues.

Section 4 Finally, our efforts are not complete if we don’t gauge any changes in the local water quality. In a partnership with the Steuben County Lakes Council, we will be able to contribute funding for the next three years to their water monitoring program. The Lakes Council began this program with the Indiana Lakes Management Society two years ago and we feel we will be able to use these testing results to give us an indication of our successes or failures throughout the watershed. We may be able to also use these results as a guide of where our priority areas still are, and focus our efforts even further.

Obviously, this grant will involve a lot of time and patience, but it will be a major step in helping us build on what we have begun and accomplish even more. The SWCD also used the Management Plan to apply and receive a Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) Watershed Land Treatment Grant for the Pigeon Creek Watershed, which complimented our work through the IDEM grants. We received this LARE grant from 2007-2009, and have installed agricultural BMPs, such as exclusion fencing, hayland plantings, filter strips, and tree plantings throughout the watershed. We look forward to the future and continuing to improve our water quality not only in the Pigeon Creek Watershed, but throughout the whole county. If you have any questions about the grant, best management practices, or anything else mentioned in this article, feel free to contact me at the SWCD office at 260-665-3211, ext. 3.