Two grant applications to fund water quality improvements in the Carey area were approved Wednesday by the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition Steering Committee.
"There could be some great accomplishments in this, but there could be some struggle too," said watershed coordinator Cindy Brookes. "We could really focus some work and make some great achievements."
One application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a request for $337,500 to work with farmers and the fertilizer industry in the Spring Run watershed, which is to include the village of Carey, the surrounding area and part of Seneca County. Funds would be used to provide education on strategies to reduce economic and environmental nutrient losses while maintaining or improving crop yields.
Committee members also gave suggestions to Brookes on another Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant for $642,000 she is writing. The second one would be for the Loss Creek Watershed at the headwaters of the Sandusky River in Crawford County.
The second approval was a $440,000 grant application to the Great Lakes Basin Soil Erosion and Sediment Control program in the Lower Tymochtee watershed. Funds would be used to provide cost-share assistance to landowners to repair damage tile, which is allowing sediment, nutrients and bacteria into the waterway.
The committee also approved a letter of support to the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University for an EPA grant application it is preparing.
The committee directed the education committee to schedule an program on "fracking," the practice of using high-pressure, chemically treated water to remove natural gas from shale.
"USGS (U.S. Geologic Survey) has some concerns about the fracking," Brookes said. Among the concerns are violation of the Great Lakes Compact agreement with Canada, the loss of fresh water, potential well contamination and the suspicion the practice is increasing the potential for earthquakes.
Locally, Brookes said further issues concern the area's karst region and the deep-well injection of hazardous materials near Vickery.
In her report, watershed coordinator Cindy Brookes said all five counties in the watershed applied as a group for Ohio EPA's Water Pollution Control Loan Fund for replacement of malfunctioning home septic systems. Seneca County received $165,000.
She said Ohio Lake Management Society is to merge with Water Management Association of Ohio and, as past president of OLMS, she is to serve as a representative to the new board.
Brookes said the Seneca County Convention and Visitors Bureau is to work on a proposal to bring a "green" tour through Seneca and Wyandot counties during the 2012 international Eco-Summit in Columbus next summer.
The tour would include POET ethanol plant in Fostoria, Heidelberg's National Center for Water Quality Research, Seneca Caverns, the solar field near Upper Sandusky and the straw bale house at the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center.
The committee learned FELC is to host hosting the Northwest Ohio Watershed Council noon-3:30 p.m. April 20 for a tour of the straw bale house project. Registration is required by contacting Brookes at (419) 334-5016.
Following the meeting at Kansas Grain, Kansas, committee Chairman Dwight Clary gave a slide presentation about construction last fall of his In-Stream Sediment Collector.
Clary said he began to develop the idea in 2000 because he wanted to build a collector in the bottom of a stream to catch sediment deposits before they made their way to larger streams, and eventually Lake Erie.
"It's designed to collect sediment before it settles into the bottom of the stream," he said. "I believe the sediment flowing at the bottom of the stream will have a scouring effect. We can clean out the bottom of a stream without having to remove the protective covering on the banks."
Sediment collected can be returned to agricultural fields or sold to greenhouses and nurseries as topsoil.
The project, built mainly by volunteers with donated equipment and supplies,
A parking lot has been completed and a driveway is being constructed to allow the site to be used to educational field trips.
Although Clary said he is in the process of patenting the collector, he said he doesn't plan to make money. He wants the plans to be available to anyone interested, and hopes the collector will be duplicated on many mid-sized streams.
"They can be placed in places where the stream naturally drops its sediment load," he said.
Clary and his wife, Lisa, plan to conduct research to determine the success of the project.
"I see this as an environmental and economical way to bring the two sides together - those who want to see streams cleaned and those who don't," he said.
The steering committee's next meeting is 8:30 a.m. June 1 at the Seneca County Agriculture Services Center, 3140 S. SR 100.