Owen SWCD Secures Grant Funding To Clean-Up McCormick’s Creek Watershed
Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District Executive Director Eric LaFary’s newest project deals with a comprehensive plan developed along with the SWCD Board of Directors to help reduce nutrients, bacteria and sediment in the waterways of the Lower White River Watershed. The watershed, which flows into the West Fork of White River, spreads from the east side of Spencer to County Line Road, north to Truesdel Road and south to Hardscrabble Road past McCormick’s Creek Elementary School.
“A couple of months ago we were awarded a $20,000 Lake & River Enhancement Grant to work on the Limestone Creek Watershed. This grant gives us $70,000 in cash and almost $90,000 in a costshare grant,” LaFary said. “That will include partners, farmers, collaborators, businesses, whoever works with us to give something. It can be money, office space, or the farmer using his equipment to help complete a project on his farm. So this is about a $160,000 total package, all aimed at reducing soil runoff, erosion, trash and stock animals in the creek.”
LaFary’s first task is to find landowners with 50 acres or more in the area willing to partner in the project by allowing easements and the placement of buffer strips along the waterways.
The McCormick’s Creek Watershed is nearly 88,00 acres, most of which is located south of State Road 46.
“We’re looking for landowners in the upper McCormick’s Creek area, with properties that flow parallel to State Road 46 on the south side. When it crosses S.R. 46, it flows into McCormick’s Creek State Park,” LaFary explained. “We have a goal of 6,000 acres of cover crops, 500 acres of re-pastoring, nine waterways and structures, and five livestock systems. Those will include a pump system for a farmer so he doesn’t have his cattle go into the creek or tributaries. We’ll fence off the creek, keep the cattle out of the creek and pump the water out and to a station so the farmer still gets the water he needs. We’ll put a buffer along that waterway as well. We want 900 acres of nutrient and pest management. Our goal also includes creek easements. Buffers are a 30- or 40-foot strip along the creek, which will reduce topsoil loss, filter nutrients and nitrates, and just hold in the creek banks. An easement is the same thing, it’s a legal document. By working with the Sycamore Land Trust, it provides a permanent easement so that no matter who buys the property there will always be an easement.”
The $90,00 cost-share is a 75- 25 match, at the discretion of the SWCD.
“If a farmer says, ‘You come out here and re-fence along the creek, help me repair some of my other fencing, provide me a pump system, put in some buffers and fix the waterway,” Lafary explained.
“That may cost $20,000, so he would be responsible for 25 percent of that cost if we have the funds left. That 25 percent can come in the form of cash for us to find a contractor for the work or if he has the expertise and the equipment and puts in the time, there is rubric that says what an hour of backhoe use is worth and what an hour of a guy’s time is worth. So he can give back in those two ways, cash or labor.”
The project also includes assisting in the development of wildlife habitats and the reduction of urban pollution.
“We want to work with homeowners as well as farmers to help reduce pollutants getting into the waterways of Owen County,” La- Fary said.
The three-year plan begins with the development of a comprehensive plan for funding allocations and assembling a steering committee to approve expenses.
“This allows us to hire an additional employee, so we’ll get a 20-hour-per-week administrator, which will allow me to go out into the field more,” LaFary said. “So the first year is getting collaborators, homeowners and farmers to say they will participate in this. The second year and towards the end of the first year will involve doing those things, installing best management practices. This is all focused around non-point solutions. We’re not looking at a pipe that is draining directly into the creek, that’s a minimal amount that’s entering the waterways. We’re looking for stuff coming off the fields, out of the yards and ways to address those kinds of things.”
Year three will be spent finalizing the implementation of best management practices and writing final reports, while also beginning a plan to continue the work.
“It’s three years of funding, but there may be more funding coming, so our goal is to not stop at three years but to aggressively search for more funding to make sure we are able to do the work throughout the years,” LaFary added. “Hopefully we can have two or three employees in here in the future.”
The third portion of the plan involves applying for an EPA 319 grant, with the help of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The total package, which would also include a costshare portion, would total nearly $600,000 and allow the SWCD to focus on the entire watershed.
“It will allow us to tie the LRE grant to the CWI grant and work on everything in between and above and beyond. The watershed encompasses about half of Owen County,” LaFary said. “It would result in a significant improvement in the water quality of the water bodies in Owen County.”
IDEM’s Josh Brosmer and Bonnie Elifritz, along with Indiana Department of Agriculture District Support Specialist Nathan Sotelting were instrumental in helping LaFary with his ongoing work to obtain funding, including the recent Clean Water Indiana Grant.
“There were around 30 applications and only seven districts were funded, so we’re fortunate that we were funded,” LaFary said. “We couldn’t have done it without a lot of support.”
In addition, the SWCD is now based out of a new location just off of East Franklin Street in Spencer, on the north side of the Farm Bureau Insurance building.
“We’ve been blessed with a wonderful office space. I want to thank the Farm Bureau Board of Directors and past president Ken Sebastian and current president Tom Erney; their leadership on the Farm Bureau side was critical to a successful partnership,” he noted. “(Farm Bureau) refurbished the office, made the restroom ADA accessible and put a new heating and air conditioning system in. I’m very thankful to have a board that is not only there to advise me, but also willing to pick up a hammer and pound nails if it’s needed. We have a board that is truly dedicated to the cause of conservation here in Owen County.”
In addition, LaFary said, Mike Priddy of the Owen County Mapping Department has agreed to print historical maps, soil maps and maps of actual project areas currently in the works.”
“The maps will allows us to, during meetings, get up and show where a particular person has agreed to work with us,” LaFary noted.”
The Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Directors is made up of chairman Paul Cummings, Greg Davies, Jim Baughman, John Trueblood and Steve Worland.
“If you think you’re in the Limestone Creek or McCormick’s Creek Watershed, contact us,” La- Fary added. “We’ll do our best to answer any questions you may have related to soil and water issues.”
LaFary can be contacted by phone at 829-2605, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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