In March the Jasper and Newton County SWCDs were jointly awarded a grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for more than $197,000. The grant funds will be used to study and create a Watershed Management Plan for parts of Jasper County and Newton County in Indiana that drain into the Lower Kankakee River. The purpose of a Watershed Management Plan is to gain an understanding of the hydrology and water quality and how they are impacted by human activities. Following the development of a WMP, further grant funds can be sought to identify solutions and implement practices to improve water quality to improve the quality of life for the local citizens, as well as for those downstream.

During the grant’s first quarter the group has:

• formed a Steering Committee (local stakeholders within the watershed),

• written a Quality Assurance Project Plan that was approved by IDEM,

• completed a historic analysis of existing water quality data

• finalized the social indicator survey that will be mailed to all landowners in the watershed to identify further resource concerns,

• developed the first draft of the Watershed Management Plan for elements 1-3,

• created a project website,

• completed the Windshield Survey,

• and submitted our first quarter report to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Here is a brief summary of the historical data analysis for the watershed provided by Lana Zimmer, PhD, Jasper County SWCD Vice-Chair:

“As part of the LKWI grant, the Arion Consulting Group completed a compilation of all the historic water quality data in the Lower Kankakee River Basin. Reports from USGS, EPA, NRCS, IDEM, IDNR and Jasper County SWCD were reviewed and the following significant results were reported based on existing water quality data that has been collected over the last decade:

USGS 2019

• Phosphorus exceeded targets in 93% samples

• Nitrates exceeded targets in 68% samples

• Turbidity (soil suspended in water) in 94% samples

• Consistently, the entire region is not well suited to traditional septic systems due to high water table or unsuitable soil types

IDEM 2018

• Elevated levels of E.coli (bacteria), nitrates, phosphorus in 41% of samples

• High turbidity in 93% of samples

• Index of biological integrity (IBI) below targets in 8 of 13 sites (fish health)

• Habitat for organisms below targets in 7 of 9 sites (supports fish and what feeds them)

JCSWCD 2010

• High E.coli levels in 11 of 14 samples

• One round of water testing has been completed in 2019, which supports earlier data

IDNR — Hoosier Riverwatch

• Elevated nitrates in 23 of 33 samples

• High turbidity

• Elevated E.coli in 3 of 23 samples

• Pollution Tolerance Index (related to life in the streams) showed reach rate to river from fair to good

Arion Consulting also did a windshield survey and viewed satellite imagery and concluded that there is a lack of stream buffers and bank erosion consistently throughout the three HUC 10 watersheds. They also analyzed each of the twelve HUC 12 sub-watersheds and completed a detailed analysis, which is available for review at the Jasper County SWCD office in Rensselaer.

A majority of issues that were identified in the windshield survey fell into five categories: 1) stream buffers limited in width or lacking altogether (796 miles of streams), areas of livestock access (1.7 miles), streambank erosion (26.6 miles of stream), dumping areas, and unregulated farms.

In response to the historic review and windshield survey conducted by Arion Consulting, the list of resource concerns has been refined and revised to an extent. Please bear in mind that how those concerns are framed will impact how we move forward with the next grant for implementation of best management practices”.

Local stakeholders created the following preliminary list of resource concerns that were identified using the historic data, satellite imagery, and observations from the Windshield Survey from Arion Consulting Group:

• Capacity of Stream and Soils to Retain Water

• Flooding: Quantity of Water is Periodically High

• Groundwater Protection from Unsafe Levels of Bacteria (E.coli)

• High Nutrient Levels and Turbidity in Streams

• Unsafe to Fish/Fish Not Safe to Eat; Water Quality that Doesn’t Support Life in the Streams

• Farmers Perceived as Polluters

Do you have additional concerns? Visit them at the Jasper County Fair at the Jasper County SWCD Education Building and tell them your concerns for the Kankakee River. They will be there daily from 4-8 p.m. Be sure to check out their new website, www.kankakeewatershed.org, for more information on the grant project!