Saint Joseph's College Supports Upper Iroquois Watershed Initiative

January 18, 2012

Saint Joseph's College has positioned itself as an advocate in the local efforts for soil and water conservation. SJC has agreed to support the Upper Iroquois Watershed Initiative (UIWI), a grant initiative led by the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District, which has been recognized as an exemplary organization by the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts for its conservation efforts.

The Upper Iroquois Watershed Initiative is a two-year 319 grant project (named after section 319 of the Clean Water Act) funded for watershed planning from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for $134,653. The goal of the UIWI is to develop a watershed management plan, and funds are being used to employ a watershed intern, monitor water quality, and prioritize critical areas of the watershed based upon the input of area residents. Sarah Todd, a junior Biology major from Valparaiso, Ind., is currently interning for the Jasper County Soil Water and Conservation District (SWCD).

"Having Sarah on staff has been a blessing," said Dan Perkins, Adjunct Professor in the Earth and Space Science Department and Project Director of the UIWI. "It allows me to spend more time with farmers and develop working relationships with them, which will help develop more ideas on how to protect the local watershed."

The goal of the initiative is to ensure an ecologically and economically healthy Iroquois River watershed for today and generations to come. A watershed plan will prioritize areas of concern and allow additional funds to be leveraged towards projects for ongoing water quality improvements in the future.

"The grant from IDEM gives the SWCD much needed funds to fix problems within the watershed," said Executive Director of the Indiana Association of Soil Water and Conservation Jennifer Boyle Warner. "The SWCD needs Saint Joseph's College and surrounding communities to help find solutions to existing problems and new ones that may arise."

With 748 miles of waterways that have barely been researched, Jasper County's watershed is in need of further study and possible improvements. The priorities of the SWCD are to improve soil quality and erosion, water quality, and land use and development.

One way the SWCD hopes to address these concerns is to encourage farmers to adopt no-till farming practices. Tilling involves plowing farmland in preparation for crop planting, whereas no-tilling requires farmers to leave residue from previous crops on the ground to decrease erosion and runoff while increasing soil quality.

Businesses from surrounding communities are also supporting the initiative by funding the Jasper County SWCD Education Center, located at the Jasper County Fairgrounds in Rensselaer.

"It is very important for our SWCD to have a dedicated space with which we can demonstrate the value of conservation to area residents and how they can help," said SJC Associate Professor of Education and SWCD Supervisor, Lana Zimmer.

For more information on the Jasper County Watershed Initiative, contact Lana Zimmer at lanaz@saintjoe.edu or 219.866.6217, or Dan Perkins at Daniel.Perkins@in.nacdnet.net.

Saint Joseph's College, named a "character-building college" by the Templeton Foundation and a "best Midwestern college" by the Princeton Review, is a four-year, Catholic college offering 27 majors, 4 group majors, 34 minors, and 9 pre-professional programs, complemented by the nationally acclaimed Core Program. Founded and sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, SJC is located in Rensselaer, Indiana, approximately 90 minutes from both Chicago and Indianapolis, on a park-like campus of 180 acres and has an enrollment of 1,100 students.

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