The Grand Lake St. Marys watershed received national attention by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to address the critical water quality issues facing residents in the watershed. "NRCS Chief Dave White provided the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed with an additional $1 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to get conservation on the ground in this watershed," says Terry Cosby, state c. "There is a sizeable waiting list of producers with high quality EQIP applications in the watershed; those that result in the greatest conservation benefit will be chosen for funding."
Ohio's elected officials recognize the effort of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in the watershed and underscore the impact of healthy natural resources on the economy and Ohioans' quality of life.
"A healthy Grand Lake St. Marys is critical to Ohio's prosperity—and achieving this goal requires a comprehensive strategy. These new resources will allow agricultural producers to utilize the best conservation practices and demonstrate how farmers can contribute to revitalizing the Grand Lake St. Marys and the recreation, tourism, and boating industries that it supports," says U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. "We know how important these conservation efforts are for improving the water quality at Grand Lake St. Marys—a major economic anchor of Mercer and Auglaize Counties. I remain committed to pursuing all possible solutions to restore it."
The Grand Lake St. Marys watershed lies in Rep. John Boehner's 8th Congressional District. Congressman Boehner says, "I am committed to the continued expansion of conservation practices in and around Grand Lake St. Marys, and I'm pleased the Department of Agriculture has made this decision. While I know it will take years to tackle all of the issues, improving water quality is important, and it will play a significant role in shaping the economic future of the region."
On the ground in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, conservation measures impacted by the weather seem to be doing well. "Plant growth is ahead of schedule due to the unusually mild winter and spring," says Steve McDevitt, an NRCS conservation planner working with producers in the watershed. "Cover crops are looking good." Now, more farmers will have a chance to take advantage of the financial and technical assistance offered through EQIP to plant cover crops, build manure storage facilities, put in filter strips, and complete other conservation measures that keep phosphorus out of waterways. Too much phosphorus in the lake has been identified as one of the factors causing harmful algal blooms.
Since 2008, NRCS has provided $7 million in EQIP financial assistance to producers in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed to put conservation measures in place and keep nutrients out of the water. Several partners, including the county Soil and Water Conservation Districts, have dedicated staff and other resources to focus on improving agricultural practices in the watershed that may affect water quality. The collaborative approach to address the water quality issues by the Federal, State, and local government agencies has allowed for the leveraging of funds, which increases how far the dollars can go to improve the lake.