More land is covered with growing grass or legumes. More land is fenced around ponds and streams, keeping cattle and other livestock out of the streams. And more critical areas are being protected so that sediment doesn't run off into creeks. These sensitive lands include highly erodible land, known as HEL, common in southeast Indiana.
These are all benefits of the South Laughery Creek Watershed project accrued to date. And since the project was just extended for another term, Duane Drockelman expects more soil to be saved in the near future. Several projects are already ongoing with landowners.
Drockelman, coordinator of the program, says that the Environmental Protection Agency, supplies the 319 grant money. It's administered by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in Indiana. And although IDEM appears to be paying closer attention to how money in 319 grants are spent, Drockelman says they were able to demonstrate that cost-shared dollars spent so far are actually turning into coil saved on the land, and cleaner water.
Not all counties or other groups that applied for extensions on 319 projects this time around were successful. One project in Johnson and Morgan Counties, for example, was not renewed. The Indian Creek Watershed project wa spat the planning stage and some work had been done on the land, but additional funding wasn't provided at this time.
The South Laughery Creek Watershed project includes parts of Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland County. Due to how the lay of the land breaks near the Ohio River, part of Switzerland County is in a different watershed.
Even on projects approved by IDEM, on behalf of EPA, it's possible cost-share percentages may not be as high this time, sources say. While in the past some cost-share has been done at a 75/25 split, with the grant paying 75% of the actual cost of a project, this time payment may be closer to 60/40, or some other similar percentage.
Part of the problem, sources also say, is that these projects require in-kind contributions by the community to show that there is interest in the project. At high cost-share percentages, it can be difficult to accumulate enough in-kind volunteer work hours and other kinds of in-kind support to meet the percentages specified in the grants.
Those who live in areas where grant money is still available ought to take advantage of the opportunity, sources suggest. What's not clear is if the sagging economy, along with the possibility of reduced cost-share incentive rates, will make these projects less attractive to landowners who want to improve their land.