The West Central Indiana Watershed Alliance (WCIWA) is a coalition of interested parties dedicated to promoting and implementing best management practices in the watersheds of West-Central Indiana while educating the general public about environmental stewardship. The WCIWA is committed to improve the water quality in local watersheds and the regions downstream from these areas.
In 1999, a group of concerned citizens joined forces to address water quality concerns in the Turtle Creek and Little Turtle Creek Watersheds. They worked hard to create a management plan for implementing best management practices in the watershed, which led to a de-listing of Turtle Creek Reservoir for dissolved oxygen impairment in 2004. They received the National Excellence in Conservation Award from the USDA-NRCS in 2005 as a result.
In December of 2007, the Sullivan County Soil & Water Conservation District was awarded an EPA Section 319 grant for the Busseron Creek Watershed. This three-year grant was the first of what is often a series of three EPA grants awarded to any given watershed. 319 grants come from EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) funds and are administered through IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management). Various organizations around the state can apply for these competitive grants each year.
Goals for a 319 Grant
Local watersheds have qualified for this grant because of poor water quality. In many cases, streams within the watersheds have been classified as “impaired”. Many types of pollutants from a wide range of sources can cause impairments in water. Some contributing factors to impairment could be acid mine drainage from abandoned minelands, excess nutrients (fertilizers, for example) that wash off of lawns and cropfields during rain events, livestock activity in close proximity to streams, improperly functioning private septic systems, and continued soil erosion. These pollutants can cause acidic pH levels, unsafe E.coli levels, and reduced oxygen. A significant reduction of pollutants is required to meet Indiana Department of Environmental Management standards; a challenge made more difficult by the historically low-income levels noted in this region. Because resources are limited, many creative solutions must be found in order to achieve our goals of improving the water quality in this area.
The watersheds of Sullivan and surrounding counties contain many recreational attractions, namely a large number of fishing lakes and hunting areas. Goose Pond and the Wabash River are also in close proximity, creating habitat for many types of wildlife. Huge flocks of migratory birds can be seen in early spring in these areas – even the rare Whooping Crane has been known to make a visit!
Ongoing efforts to educate the public about conservation, coupled with the implementation of best management practices is the basis for the success of this grant. Drastic improvements are not expected to be witnessed immediately, though each acre of land where conservation practices take place is counted as a success.