Shared from the 5/4/2019 Sandusky Register eEdition

COLUMN | naturally speaking

Speak for your creek

Improving our watersheds to improve our lake

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Every summer we hear reports of algal blooms stretching across the lake brought there from a combination of excessive nutrients and ideal growing conditions. Nutrients that travel from all areas of the watershed through late winter and spring storms.

When it rains, it not hard to see the changes we have made in our community play a big role in the changes visible in the streams that flow through them. Our streams change from slow moving clear streams to frothy brown rapids carrying all kinds of pollution that ride the current to Lake Erie.

There are several ditches, streams, and rivers that flow to our lake that serve as the highwaysforthesepollutants like phosphorus, nitrogen, sediment, and litter.

Although sediment and nutrient delivery by our streams during storm are a natural process that keeps a lake healthy, too many nutrients overload the systems causing the algal blooms we are experiencing now.

In the past decade, there has been more concern for the condition of our Lake. Research has provided clarity on potential land use practices that pollute and solutions to reduce that impact.

In the end, it all depends on level of “stewardship” of those living in a particular watershed that ultimately decide if a stream is healthy and clean or impaired. Watershed stewardship is specific in the way personal and community management practices are conductedwithwaterquality in mind.

Today we view stewardship as an ethical disposition we inherit when we adopt practices intended to protect and improve the integrity of our natural resources based on how we affect the environment around us.

To quote the Lorax (by Dr. Seuss): “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot; nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

Now, more than ever, we need all need to step up our watershed stewardship if we truly want a cleaner lake.

Inourarea,thetypeofstewardship that will improve our streams and lake differ by land use. In agricultural land we need to heal our soil through reducing tillage and planting cover crops, manage our nutrients better, and provide a little extra space between our crops and the waterway.

In urban areas, we need to promote green infrastructure in new development, protect what’s left of our sensitive natural areas, and reduce litter. At home, planting natives, reducing fertilizer use, and installing rain barrels are a great start.

Each watershed is a bit different because land uses, geology, and soils may be different. That is why watershed planning is vital in improving a stream. Much like a diet and exercise plan can help you lose weight, a watershed plan is a collection of tailored strategies to reduce pollutants in the stream.

For a plan to be successful, thecommunityneedstohave a hand in developing it.

The Fireland Coastal Tributaries Watershed Program goal is to improve the impaired small streams in Erie County through both watershed planning and voluntary stewardship changes.

We are currently in the planning process in the Old Woman Creek and Pipe Creek Watersheds.

Once developed, the plan will not only provide us a roadmap to improve our streams, but also open up funding for stream restoration projects, agricultural conservation incentives, and more.

We are currently seeking public input on the development of the Pipe Creek and Old Woman Creek plans. If youhaveaconcernaboutone of these watersheds or know of a “problem area”, we would like to hear from you.

We will be holding several public events called “SPEAK FOR YOUR CREEK” over the next couple of months. At these meetings, you will learn the causes of impairment for our local stream and participate in an active discussion for developing solutions.

The “SPEAK FOR YOUR CREEK” Pipe Creek Watershed Public Planning meeting will be May 8 at 6 p.m. at thePerkins Township Hall. RSVP contact: Bre Hohman, bhohman@eriecounty.oh.gov, 419-626-5211.

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