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EPA Regional Administrator Visits Indiana, Highlights $3.8 Million to Improve Water Quality and Protect Watersheds

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede concluded a trip to Indiana Thursday with the announcement of a $3,777,000 Clean Water Act Section 319 grant to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to improve the health of watersheds throughout the state. He also toured Wallpe Farms in Fowler to see operations to conserve water quality and promote soil health.

“The great work being done to reduce nonpoint source pollution in the Big Pine Creek Watershed and throughout the state of Indiana is an example of the importance of continued collaboration with the agricultural community,” said Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede. “Through discussions like we had today with farmers and stakeholders, and meaningful actions, we will continue to make an even greater impact in protecting and restoring water quality in Indiana.”

During the visit, Thiede participated in a roundtable discussion with the Indiana Farm Bureau and local farmers on best management practices, research, and implementation efforts to reduce nonpoint source runoff. He highlighted how the new funding will help reduce nonpoint source pollution across Indiana.

“IDEM is glad to have the support of the EPA in protecting Indiana’s waterways,” said IDEM Assistant Commissioner, Office of Water Quality Martha Clark Mettler. “The 319 grant program provides important funding to safeguard our natural resources and improve water quality for all Hoosiers.”

IDEM uses the funding to implement its nonpoint source management plan which includes awarding grants to local sponsors for projects to address urban and rural runoff that impairs water quality in priority watersheds throughout the state.

“Section 319 Grants and the types of partnerships we’ve seen here today are important to implementing and developing new and innovative approaches to on-farm conservation practices,” said Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau President. “INFB is a proud partner in ensuing that agriculture continues to do its part in protecting water quality in our rural communities.”

Under this program, for FY2020 IDEM selected nine proposals that will focus on improving watersheds affected by nonpoint source pollution:

  • Big Pine Creek Watershed Implementation Project – sponsored by the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)
  • Deer Creek-Sugar Creek Implementation Project – sponsored by the Carroll County SWCD
  • Highland Pigeon Watershed Management Plan Development – Gibson County SWCD
  • Onsite Sewage Disposal System Outreach and Education Project – sponsored by the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program
  • Otter Creek Watershed Implementation – sponsored by the Ouabache Land Conservancy
  • Maria and No Business Creek Planning and Implementation Project – sponsored by the Sullivan County SWCD
  • South Fork Blue River Watershed Project – Washington County SWCD
  • Region of the Great Bend of the Wabash River Implementation Project – Wabash River Enhancement Corporation
  • Walnut Creek-Tippecanoe River Watershed Implementation Project – sponsored by the Watershed Foundation

The visit highlighted work being done in the Big Pine Creek Watershed where a growing interest to improve soil health through nutrient management has led to a voluntary partnership with farmers and landowners. The work includes studies in Benton and Warren County to measure the amount of nitrate runoff in local ditches, streams and watersheds.  Several area farmers and landowners are voluntarily taking part in nitrate runoff practices to increase yield and improve soil health, while reducing input costs. The Big Pine Creek Watershed groups received Section 319 funding in FY2016 to implement this program and will receive FY2020 funds to continue with implementation.

IDEM expects this year’s 319 grant projects will reduce an estimated 86,000 tons of sediment, 100,000 lbs of phosphorous and 196,000 lbs of nitrogen as a result of on-the-ground best management practice in priority watersheds.

Unlike pollution from industrial facilities and sewage treatment plants, nonpoint source pollution does not come from a specific place. As precipitation moves over or through the ground, it picks up debris and pollutants and deposits them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and groundwater. Nonpoint source pollution can include excess fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides; oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from urban runoff; sediment; drainage from abandoned mines; and bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet waste, and faulty septic systems. It can contribute to problems like harmful algal blooms, erosion, and bacteria contamination of surface and groundwater.

For more information regarding EPA’s nonpoint source grant program visit: https://www.epa.gov/nps/319-grant-program-states-and-territories

Source: EPA