Watershed alliance meets with public


Group seeks community connections

By Sam Wildow - swildow@aimmediamidwest.com



PIQUA — In an effort to build connections within the community, local groups concerned with water quality hosted a meeting Monday evening to discuss issues facing local water sources.

The Middle Great Miami River Watershed Alliance, in partnership with Pheasants Forever, Protecting Our Water-Ways, and the city of Piqua, hosted the meeting at the Piqua City Municipal Building.

Sky Schelle, city of Piqua water quality coordinator, led the meeting, first explaining that their area of focus is the Garbry Creek Watershed. “A watershed is all the land that drains to a particular body of water,” Schelle said.

The bodies of water within the Garbry Creek Watershed include Swift Run Lake, Echo Lake, and Franz Pond.

“We want the water to be as clean as possible so we can send it out to the public,” Schelle said.

The Middle Great Miami River Watershed Alliance and the city are studying this area for sources of contamination to those three bodies of water and considering ideas for improvements that could lead to land use changes and less runoff.

Randy Kirchner of the Middle Great Miami River Watershed Alliance spoke about how the watershed alliance is working on a nine-point plan on what can be done to improve the area of the Garbry Creek Watershed. That nine-point plan would then act as a planning document to be used for grant applications.

“We have the opportunity to go for grants,” Schelle said. “The hope then is that you get some money that can be turned into cost-share (funds).”

From there, they hope to use those funds in partnership with community members — such as farmers, lawn care companies, local businesses, and residents — to help them with actions that reduce contamination, runoff, erosion, and other issues for local waterways.

Some of those opportunities for cost-sharing may include for reduced tillage, grass waterways, and other agricultural practices, as well as urban practices such as stream bank stabilization and education programs to reduce lawn chemical use. The watershed alliance would help community members and property owners by bearing a portion of the cost of these practices with these grants.

Schelle added that he wanted to be upfront in saying that they will not be raising taxes or stormwater rates as a result of these efforts. “This is not a land grab,” Schelle said, adding that they will not be looking to control what property owners do with their land.

In discussing issues for these local water sources, some of them can be seen right away, while others need to be tested to uncover. “It’s not just the water itself, it’s the land that drains into the water,” Schelle said.

About the lakes’ aesthetics, Schelle said, “You’ve probably aware of the algae mats and weeds.” He explained that nutrient runoff is affecting the growing amount of algae and weeds.

Another noticeable issue is water levels decreasing — or lake shallowing, as Schelle referred to it. For instance, at Franz Pond, the water is becoming more shallow as approximately one-third of the pond is full of sediment.

Schelle said that residents on Franz Pond may be impacted by this with decreasing property values if people are not able to use the pond recreationally. He added that lake shallowing is being affected by the erosion of ditches.

Swift Run Lake and Echo Lake are also at risk of lake shallowing due to the erosion of small streams that drain into those lakes, “streams that are just being eroded by stormwater runoff,” Schelle said.

“Everything is related,” he said. “It’s hard to impact them all that same time.”

Pesticides are also contaminating these local lakes, but where those pesticides are coming from is still unclear.

“According to the EPA, Swift Run Lake has too much atrazine in it,” Schelle said, citing the Ohio EPA’s testing of Swift Run Lake in 2009. “We have to spend quite a bit of money removing atrazine.”

Schelle said that they have been testing for the sources of the atrazine, a herbicide primarily used on cornfields. The three months of data that they have shows that there is atrazine coming from urban and residential areas rather than open space or agricultural areas.

A farmer in the crowd noted that there is “a tremendous amount of oversight” when it comes to chemical use in farming, noting that farmers are required to maintain a license to use pesticides.

Also during the meeting, groups in partnership with the watershed alliance spoke about their interest in the Garbry Creek Watershed and working with the watershed alliance.

Jeff Lange of Protecting Our Water-ways explained their interest in the effort. Lange said that while they pull trash out of the river and local lakes, “It doesn’t necessarily mean it is cleaner.”

Lange and Kirchner added that the watershed alliance is also looking for more members to participate on its citizens advisory committee.

Terry Lavy of Miami County Pheasants Forever spoke about Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) interest for possible land use changes, noting that, “Right now, there is a nationwide hold on CRP acres.” Lavy also spoke about honeysuckle and how the invasive plant is crowding out woods.

For more information or to participate in the citizens advisory committee with the watershed alliance, Kirchner can be contacted at randolphkirchner@gmail.com or (937) 214-3883. Schelle can be contacted at sschelle@piquaoh.org or (937) 778-2059.

Group seeks community connections

By Sam Wildow

swildow@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com or (937) 451-3336

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com or (937) 451-3336