If you live in northern Indiana, this is good news, at least for those who farm in a certain location. If you don't, consider this information that illustrates how USDA is tackling major problems, and where money is being spent.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the Natural resources Conservation Service will provide financial and technical assistance to eight states to improve water quality through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It will channel more than $33 million from NRCS to fund conservation work. As in most other funded projects today, it will use a priority watershed approach/ those watersheds considered most vulnerable will get the majority of funds. The reasoning is that's where the money can have the greatest effect upon water quality.
Surface water in northern Indiana flows into both Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. Priority watersheds in Indiana for this project have already been identified. They are the Little Calumet-Gallen watershed, which flows into Lake Michigan, and four sub-watersheds of the Maumee River, which flow into Lake Erie. They include the St.Mary's, Auglaize, Upper Maumee and St.Joseph Maumee.
There will be a sign-up for funding from June 1 to July 1. Distribution of funds nationally is based on size of the priority watersheds. NRCS will use existing conservation programs to channel the funds. They include EQIP, WHIP and EWP, the Emergency Watershed Protection Floodplain Easement Program. Part of the money will also go to conservation technical assistance. The total amount of funds going to the five watersheds in Indiana amounts to 2.35 million.
You can learn about this program online at: www.epa.gov/greatlakes/glri/index.html. Especially if you're in one of these regions, you may want to visit your local NRCS office. Most are located in USDA service centers across the state.
This effort is in addition to other projects already ongoing in these areas. Some of the efforts aimed at protecting the Great Lakes are privately funded. For instance, Save The Dunes devotes considerable effort to working with groups to improve water quality in tributaries that feed into Lake Michigan. They do stream monitoring and engage in other activities that affect water quality miles from the actual lake shore. Offices for Save the Dunes are located in Michigan City.
The theory is that if watersheds feeding into the lake can be improved, less pollution will flow into the Lakes themselves. Sediment remains the number one pollutant. Technically, both public and private efforts are devoted to preventing further pollution of the Lakes, not cleaning up problems already in the Lakes. That involves dredging and other activities that are usually considered cost-prohibitive.