KANSAS - A Seneca County couple and volunteers have constructed a prototype of an innovative stream sediment collector they hope will be a step forward in keeping nutrient-laden sediment out of rivers and Lake Erie.
Dwight Clary is the creator of the Clary In-Stream Sediment Collector, but he and his wife, Lisa, have decided to give the idea to the agricultural community and are not planning to profit financially.
They said they're simply interested in furthering conservation agriculture and promoting the wide use of sediment collectors to improve stream health and flow, water quality and aid in lessening harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie.
The Clarys hosted their first field day Thursday to focus on the collectors and the beginnings of research at their farm at 8704 CR 62, Kansas.
In fall 2010, the Clarys and volunteers constructed two collectors on Muskellunge Creek as it runs through their property using donated funds from the agriculture and non-agriculture communities.
"It's been 10 years from conception of the idea through the competed construction," he said.
With help from Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District, former Natural Resources Conservation Service conservationist John Crumrine and Sandusky River Watershed Coalition director Cindy Brookes, Clary applied for a grant for the project, and he raised donations for the required matching funds. But the grant was not approved.
So a group of volunteers decided to construct the project anyway, raising money from sponsors.
With the help of a welder, a mason and several other volunteers, two collectors were completed in six weeks.
"That was quite a learning experience too," he said.
Clary showed construction pictures, and explained the process.
For the past few years, he and Lisa and others have been researching the results.
"It's an economical and ecological way to collect sediment and return it back to its natural state," Dwight Clary said during a presentation Thursday.
As it catches sediment before it clogs ditches and creeks, he said the collectors are cleaned out whenever needed and the nutrient-rich soil can be returned to the cropland where it belongs. The results of testing on soil samples taken from the collector show a strong base of nutrients including micronutrients.
"They could be systematically and strategically placed in a watershed," he said.
The key is to find the best spots.
"The idea here is to find where nature wants to deposit sediments," he said.
Clary said his calculations show 100 tons of sediment could be collected from subwatershed streams such as ditches and small creeks using the collectors. And that sediment would not end up in Lake Erie causing algal blooms and sedimentation.
"I believe the potential is much greater," he said.
He estimates each collector would cost about $10,000 to install, less if the pieces could be pre-cast and put together on-site. He said they would last at least 50 years, but ramps would have to replaced more often.
As a comparison, he said he checked with an excavator operator who said it would cost almost $8,000 to clean the bottom of a stream, and almost $16,000 to clean the bottom and one side.
"And then the whole sedimentation process starts over," he said.
In addition to farmers, Clary said local governments would benefit from cleaner streams. Just two examples would be cities spending less money on cleaning drinking water and counties spending less money on ditch maintenance.
Because the ditches would no longer need to be cleaned mechanically, he said wildlife habitat would remain in place. And waterways that are not filled with sediment are deeper and help alleviate flooding.
Clary said Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research has shown interest in conducting research at his farm.
In addition, Beck's Seeds, a company who has helped to sponsor the project, is interested in constructing a collector on land the company owns next to the Farm Science Review site in London, Ohio.
"It's one more step in solving the problem," Clary said.