September 28, 2021

Kettler: Big changes coming to the Western Lake Erie Basin

Patience is a virtue. And that certainly stands true when waiting for something long anticipated, like the award notification of a multimillion-dollar grant.

We patiently awaited the news of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture was thrilled to receive a Regional Conservation Partnership Grant for the Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin collaboration, a grant that totaled almost $8 million.

The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin collaboration is a joint effort between ISDA, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and The Ohio State University.

Currently, I reside in Indiana, and have for more than 20 years, but before then I was raised a proud Buckeye and attended The Ohio State University. To say that I was excited about this partnership is an understatement.

I am proud to have close ties to two partners of this grant and I cannot wait to see the partnership that flourishes between the three groups. Beyond the three groups listed above, this grant was also backed by over 20 private businesses and organizations that collaborated to leverage an additional $13.5 million in funding to support this outstanding effort.

The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin collaboration is going to focus on the headwaters of the Maumee River. The Maumee River is a crucial water source for Lake Erie, and by focusing on the smaller rivers and streams surrounding Lake Erie we are better able to increase the water quality of the lake as whole.

Together with our partners, both government and private, we will be able to provide farmers and landowners with the funds to increase both soil conservation and water quality efforts. Farmers will be granted funds from our $8 million to implement whatever conservation best suits their operation.

The opportunities with this grant are nearly endless. Farmers and landowners can use the funds to install grassed waterways, increase cover cropped acres, install a pollinator or wildlife habitat, create nutrient management plans, construct two-stage ditches, or much more.

These practices will be used to reduce sediment and nutrients from entering surface water through the implementation of well-placed best management conservation practices.

The goal of this grant and the Western Lake Erie Basin as a whole is decreasing phosphorus runoff. With the conservation practices listed above we can not only achieve the goal of decreasing nutrients in our waterways, but also keep our soils healthy and thriving for years.

Although waiting was trying at times, the award was sweet and well worth it. We are so thankful we were able to receive this funding and are excited to have additional financial and technical assistance for farmers and landowners in and around the Western Lake Erie Basin.

Thanks to our many contributors — government, university and private — we are partnering together for the betterment of a large, ecologically diverse section of three neighboring states and that is something worth celebrating.

Farmers located in the Western Lake Erie Basin who are interested in the program can learn more at isda.in.gov or by visiting your local Soil and Water Conservation District.

Bruce Kettler is the director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.