Heidelberg lab in line for EPA funds

Federal dollars would target programs to improve area watersheds
Sep 10, 2007

Heidelberg College’s National Center for Water Quality Research has been selected to complete applications for $900,000 through the EPA’s national Targeted Watersheds Grant Programs.

Late last month, the EPA announced the 16 organizations from across the United States that have been invited to apply for $13.36 million for implementation programs. The selected organizations will implement a variety of activities to improve the health of their watersheds. The NCWQR’s proposal targets the lands that drain into Honey Creek, a major tributary to the Sandusky River.

The EPA received 132 proposals; Heidelberg was the only entity from Ohio and the only educational institution to be given the opportunity to complete the application process. In the EPA’s notification letter, Heidelberg’s proposal was described as “exemplary … one that demonstrates a readiness to realize real, measurable water quality and environmental improvements.”

David Baker, director emeritus of the NCWQR, explained that the EPA funds will primarily be used to foster adoption of agricultural best management practices in the Honey Creek watershed. Funding will support the programs of the soil and water conservation districts in Seneca, Crawford and Huron counties as well as provide incentive payments to farmers. The NCWQR, with the aid of staff from the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition and the University of Toledo, will handle the environmental monitoring, the education and outreach programs and the project administration.

“The long-term goal is to implement the Sandusky Watershed Coalition’s Honey Creek Watershed Action Plan,” said Baker, who will serve as the project director.

One goal of the project is to reduce by 25 percent the amount of phosphorus exported from Honey Creek watershed to Lake Erie. A second goal is to improve the fish and invertebrate communities in Honey Creek and its tributaries by improving stream habitat and stream flow. The third goal is to reduce by 50 percent the amount of time nitrates in Honey Creek exceed the drinking water standard. The municipal water treatment plants in Attica and New Washington utilize stream water from the Honey Creek watershed as their source for treatable drinking water.

The original proposal was submitted in November, with assistance from the steering committee of the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition, the staff from the University of Toledo.

Pleased that Heidelberg’s proposal was accepted, Baker said there’s still much work to be done. He’s currently leading the development of a detailed work plan and budget that will be submitted to EPA for final approval.