Sunday, August 29, 2010

$500,000 grant for Shiawassee River project

Posted: Saturday, August 28, 2010 12:00 pm

The Shiawassee River is about to get a little healthier thanks to a hefty dose of federal funds.
The Shiawassee Conservation District recently received a $500,000 grant from the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil and Sediment Control, a program through the Great Lakes Commission, to fund the Mid-Shiawassee River Watershed Sediment Reduction Project — a three-year program that will focus on reducing sediment erosion into the Shiawassee River.
“I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the Shiawassee Conservation District in obtaining this prestigious grant,” State Rep. Richard Ball stated in a press release. “I am very excited to see their efforts in addressing these natural resource concerns in the Shiawassee River Watershed and improving Michigan’s Great Lakes.”
The Mid-Shiawassee River Watershed Sediment Reduction Project will focus on areas along the Mid-Shiawassee River Watershed that are known contributors of significant amounts of sediment into the river. The Shiawassee Conservation District will be working with a private landowner, the Shiawassee County Drain Commission and the city of Owosso in tackling three large-scale stream bank stabilization projects in tributaries that directly contribute water to the Shiawassee River, said Andrea Berry, Watershed Technician with the Shiawassee Conservation District.
Berry added many of these area drainage sites were installed years ago with the intention of getting water out of the area as quickly as possible, but unintended side effects such as soil erosion have occurred overtime.
“They’re losing soil and causing sediment to go over to the river,” Berry said. “The reason why that’s bad is because sediment can have different toxins attached to it like oils, chemicals, pesticides or fertilizers...and that becomes attached to the sediment and that is then delivered downstream to the river. And it effects fish and wildlife habitat and also can effect water quality so that the water isn’t safe for people to use.”
Additionally, the district plans to work with Baker College to do an educational project focusing on making the college’s storm water retention pond a more efficient system, Berry said.
The Mid-Shiawassee River Watershed Sediment Reduction Project will also include an investigational incentive program involving the application of a powder called gypsum on soil to encourage water infiltration in clay-based agricultural soils and, in turn, reduce soil loss, according to the press release.
“We’re really only focusing on 1,500 acres and working with partners to get the use of gypsum on these fields,” Berry said. “The application of gypsum to clay soil increases infiltration potential resulting in less runoff and therefore less soil loss from the field.”
Planning for the projects will begin in October, but implementation of the projects won’t begin until Spring 2011 at the earliest, Berry said. A kick-off event for the project is also scheduled for October, and the public will be invited.
Berry added the Shiawassee River has a long history of pollution-related issues, and reducing sediment erosion and polluted water runoff is just another part of making the river and other waterways in the county more healthy.
“By having a cleaner and healthier river, people will be able to use it more and not have the risks (associated with polluted water),” Berry said, adding cleaning up the pollutants in the river can better fish and wild life habitat, as well as improve people’s perception of the river, increase tourism in the area and  better the local economy. “The river is a big part of Shiawassee County and having these practices and this program addressing issues that have been ongoing for years and years will help to improve the quality of, not only the river, but the tributaries of the Shiawassee River...In downstream areas, it all ends up in the Great Lakes. So not only are we improving our community, but we’re improving communities all along the river and throughout the Great Lakes Basin.”
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