PAW PAW — The Van Buren Conservation District has been awarded a three-year $250,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) through the U.S. EPA Federal Clean Water Act. The grant will fund efforts to reduce pollution in Pine and Mill Creeks, which are both tributaries of the Paw Paw River that have been listed as impaired by the MDEQ.
Pine and Mill Creeks join the Paw Paw River in the City of Hartford and the City of Watervliet respectively. Both streams were listed as impaired for partial and total body contact by the MDEQ in 2008 due to high levels of bacteria and pathogens. Likely sources of these pollutants include manure runoff and failing septic systems. The grant will be used to address both sources through outreach, education and financial incentives.
"The Van Buren Conservation District is extremely pleased to be awarded this funding to promote clean water in Pine and Mill Creeks," said Alison Brucks, district director. "We are excited to begin working with farmers and homeowners to address pollutant sources that are impacting these streams and the communities they flow through."
The funds will be used to support educational programs and assist farmers with installing practices like cover crops and no-till that reduce polluted runoff. New technology will be tested that could reduce runoff and improve yields on farms. Scent trained canines will be used to identify areas with septic systems in need of repair or replacement.
The Drain Commissioner’s office will play a role in the project by offering lower drain assessments to farmers and landowners in the area who reduce runoff by using conservation practices. Drain maintenance charges will be largely based on the amount of sediment and runoff individual properties deliver to the drain, which creates a financial incentive for soil and water conservation. According to Joe Parman, the Van Buren County Drain Commissioner “this approach will generate drain assessments that are fair and could reduce drain maintenance costs for everybody in the long run.”
Together, Pine and Mill Creeks drain more than 38 square miles of land that includes parts of Bainbridge and Watervliet Townships in Berrien County and Keeler and Hartford Townships in Van Buren County. The land use in these watersheds is predominantly agricultural with about 60% percent of the land being used for crop and animal production. Water from both streams is used for irrigation and Mill Creek flows through Flaherty Park in the City of Watervliet, where both kids and fishermen enjoy the creek. The ultimate goal of the project is to make the streams cleaner and safer for all the people who use them.
The Two Rivers Coalition will assist the Conservation District with information, education and outreach efforts during the project. Other partners include the Berrien County Health Department, Van Buren/Cass District Health Department, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Van Buren County Farm Bureau, Red Arrow Dairy and the Van Buren County Drain Commissioner. These partners, along with individual landowners, will contribute another $110,000 to this project, culminating in about $360,000 for conservation efforts in the project area over the next three years.
To learn more about the Van Buren Conservation District, visit vanburencd.org.
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