Monday, February 11, 2013

Fall Creek Watershed Partnership Activities and Updates

Post below was submitted by Leslie White of the Fall Creek Watershed Partnership. To have your Indiana conservation district/group news featured, please contact Jennifer at 

Fall Creek Watershed Partnership
Backyard Conservation Program
Planting Conservation Ideas and Practices in 2013

Backyard Conservation Coordinator Leslie White
Hi, I’m Leslie White, Fall Creek Watershed Partnership Backyard Conservation Coordinator working through the Soil & Water Conservation Districts of Hamilton, Hancock, Madison and Marion Counties. It’s my pleasure to share conservation information, address questions, offer suggestions and tailored conservation plans to help you reach your goals for your property. Feel free to email me at or call 317-773-2181 to discuss conservation options and the financial assistance offered through several cost-share programs.

Message from Your Backyard Conservation Coordinator
Winter 2013
Several workshops are in the incubation stage—conceived but not fully mature. Planning is progressing for the following programs:
Discovering the Natural Resources That Impact Your Home & Property - This program will review home site drainage, soils, soil erosion, floodplains and wetlands. This is planned to be held in March.
Field Tour of Natural Resources that Impact Your Home & Property - This outdoor program will be held in a location that will provide a diversity of natural resources to review and discuss. Forestry, invasive plants, wetlands, soils, flood-plains, and like topics will be reviewed on the tour.
River Watch is a state program that provides training on how to do water quality monitoring of our creeks and streams. Participants will learn about water quality and how to conduct simple chemical and field tests to determine the water quality. Participants can register to regularly monitor a stream and report results to a state wide data base. This training is scheduled for late May or early June.

Pond site evaluation, planning & construction to be discussed at Pond Workshop

Ponds are a popular improvement to farms and large lots. These improvements can provide a source of joy or create a major headache. Join us to learn about site evaluation, planning and construction of ponds. This workshop will be held in September.
See a program that interests you? Contact the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to be put on a contact list for one or all of the programs. Call 317-773-2181 or email at . A modest fee will be charged for these programs to offset expenses.

Fall Creek Watershed Partnership Office:
1717 Pleasant Street, Suite 100
Noblesville, IN 46060

Several cost-share programs are available to help you implement conservation practices on your property. Contact us to learn about your options. We’ll help you address application questions, too.
Fall Creek Watershed Partnership (FCWP). Tailored educational, technical and financial assistance is Fall Creek Watershed landown-ers to put clean water practices in place. Learn more here.
Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District (HCSWCD)
All Hamilton County property owners are eligible for cost-share as-sistance in implementing various nutrient and pest management, wildlife habitat, and storm water management practices. February 15, 2013, is the next application deadline. Learn more here.
Upper White River Watershed Alliance (UWRWA)
Critical areas in need of conservation practices are eligible for cost-share funding through this program. Check out the UWRWA website for information and a priority area map.
Cost-Share Programs Available to Help You Tree Plantings Raingardens / Bioswales Invasive Plant Removal Water Edge Enhancements Prairie Plantings Green Roofs Permeable Pavement/Pavers Many others—contact us!

Upcoming Workshops Sponsored by
the Soil & Water Conservation Districts
Fall Creek Watershed Partnership—
Leveraging Community Collaboration and Resources for Clean Water

Backyard Conservation measures are gaining traction in Hamilton, Hancock, Madison and Marion Counties, thanks to a Clean Water Indiana (CWI) Watershed Grant through the Indiana State Department of Agricul-ture’s Division of Soil Conservation. Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) for the targeted Coun-ties are able to offer Backyard Conservation services including technical, educational, and financial assis-tance to landowners in the Fall Creek Watershed. Les-lie White, the Fall Creek Watershed Partnership’s (FCWP) Backyard Conservation Program coordinator, guides landowners in the four-county region in planning and implementing conservation practices for clean water. These practices are able to affect a variety of ecosystems throughout the watershed, and many are ones that farmers have been using for years such as filter strips, wildlife habitat, and vegetative streambank stabilization, while others are more urban in nature such as raingardens, green roofs, pervious pavers and rain barrels. Not only do these practices protect our soil, water, air, and wildlife and provide beauty and enjoyment, they also often reduce maintenance for the landowner.

Water testing to be conducted on local stream for River Watch

The push for Backyard Conservation is based on the Fall Creek Watershed Management Plan, which identifies challenges to water quality and the need for urban practices to reduce nutrient loading, E. coli and excess sedimentation. The issues facing Fall Creek are varied and significant: combined sewer over-flows (CSOs), mercury, PCBs and urban solid waste add to a mix of nutrient, sediment and bacterial pollution generated upstream of Indianapolis. The Lower Fall Creek Watershed Management Plan identified nutrient runoff, bank erosion, poor construction practices, highly erodible slopes, CSOs and lack of community education as sources or reasons for the pollution. While all of these factors must be ad-dressed, one of the biggest hurdles is how to effectively change the norms, attitudes, behaviors and expectations of the communities and individuals who reside within the Watershed. Thankfully, the degraded condition of the creek also provides a starting point for these discussions. The plight of Fall Creek, or at least some of its issues, is well known to some communities along its banks. It is hard to escape the odor that results from CSOs, and older neighbors often discuss their favorite fishing spots that are no longer usable due to the polluted water. At Geist Reservoir, issues such as toxic blue-green algal blooms, exotic aquatic plants, soil erosion, and sedimentation that negatively impact water quality, wild-life habitat, recreational safety and reservoir aesthetics are among resident concerns. Downstream of the reser-voir, Fall Creek is rarely used due to CSO events, invasive species that choke the creek banks, and a heavily trafficked Fall Creek Parkway commuter artery that separates the neighborhoods from the creek and prevents pedestrians from easily accessing the waterway. The segment of Fall Creek that helps define this area of Indianapolis and the nearby Minnie Creek tributaries are listed on the State’s 303(d) list due to impairments for E. coli, PCBs, and mercury. This area embodies a concentration of challenges that face the entire watershed and there are a number of community efforts that demonstrate a desire to restore the health of Fall Creek through participation in water quality and other conservation initiatives.

While Indianapolis progresses with a plan (deep storage tunnels) to control the CSOs, the Upper White River Watershed Alliance is using an EPA 319 Clean Water grant to extend cost-share funding for conservation practices. The SWCDs in Hamilton, Hancock, Madison and Marion Counties are using CWI funding for a Backyard Conservation Program and personalized landowner services in the Fall Creek Watershed as well as offering cost-share funds to incentivize landowner conservation practices. Hamilton County SWCD is extending cost-share support for county-wide backyard conservation practices. With these concurrent programs in place, the momentum is building to improve the water quality of Fall Creek and surrounding communities.
The FWCP’s efforts are focused on offering educational programs and technical assistance that help residents understand water quality issues and solutions, and how they can individually take action to ensure cleaner water and better soil health. Individual action and partnerships are the keys to effective watershed management. We value these relationships and projects with residents, neighborhoods, municipalities, non-profits, chambers of commerce, economic development groups, businesses, schools, higher education and government agencies.

Before - raingarden planning to capture stormwater runoff from roof/downspout at Ft. Harrison State Park Visitor Center.

After - raingarden in place to capture, filter, & recharge stormwater brought to the native planting area from buried 4-inch tile connected to downspout.

Over the past year, the FCWP was blessed with active community partners who stepped up to do their part for water quality. During this program’s first year, we developed a working and potential list of demonstration sites along the Fall Creek area to educate residents and promote backyard conservation practices. Among these are the Cicero’s rain barrels artistically painted for the Nickel Plate Arts Festival and Rain Barrel Auction, Community Hospital System / Heart and Vascular Hospital planned parking lot island raingarden retrofits, Fall Creek Gardens’ bioswale and rainwater catchment system, a future bioswale for Anderson’s Flagship Enterprise Center, Fort Harrison State Park’s Visitor Center raingarden and rain barrel, the Fort Golf Course’s planned native plant buffers, Fort Harrison Reuse Authority’s future water edge enhancements at its retention pond, Fort Harrison State Park’s Visitor Center raingarden and rain barrel, Geist and Lawrence area bundled water quality projects, Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation’s upcoming pocket park green roof, McCordsville’s streambank stabilization, Nickel Plate Visitor Center raingarden and rain barrel, Pendleton’s Historical Museum and residential raingardens and permeable pavers, Urban Patch’s Historic Meridian Park raingardens, Windridge COA’s bioswale and raingardens’ system, as well as other residential projects dotting the county and region. Butler University, Ivy Tech Community College and several churches are working together to form “green teams” of youth committed to learning about and in-stalling conservation practices on campuses and in their neighborhoods. Some examples of these green initiatives can be viewed at the following link: .

Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society member Betty Randall displays a pollinator garden of many natives that she & her husband have created for wildlife habitat & reduced maintenance.

Neighborhood and student volunteers digging & planting the Fall Creek Gardens’ bioswale—look for blooms & foliage this spring.

Home site drainage, flooding, wildlife habitat and forestry are topics to be covered in Discovering the Natural Resources that Impact Your Home & Property Class
Soil will be viewed and discussed on the Field Tour

Rain Barrel Sales

Rain barrels are a hot commodity for gardeners. The concept is to cap-ture the rainwater that falls from your roof into a barrel connected to a downspout and then use the rain water for irrigation. By collecting this water, you collect stormwater runoff that would shed to the lawn or driveway to the street or backyard swale. This runoff can contain pol-lutants and nutrients and contributes to flooding. By using a rain bar-rel, you collect free, soft, chlorine-free water that plants love. Save on water bills and be environmentally conscious by using these repurposed food grade barrels. Call at 317-773-2181 or visit the office to purchase.

In 2012, the FCWP offered over 30 presentations on varied conservation topics, hosted 40-plus informational booths at farmers markets and other events, facilitated 14 workshops, and worked with more than 300 individuals in the region to raise citizen awareness of water quality and soil health issues. We reached out to more than 70 individuals with technical assistance, prepared conservation plans, connected landowners with cost-share assistance, and implemented public demonstration projects across watershed. These efforts were tailored to address each landowner’s needs, ranging from drainage and erosion issues, stormwater runoff, pollutants and nutrients, wildlife habitat, maintenance reduction and neighborhood beautification.
While it is easy to find information on water conservation practices online or at the library, it is much harder to inspire interest in individuals in the middle of their busy lives. A first, crucial step is to make personal contact with each community, neighborhood, and landowner to connect them with their water-shed, and in this the FCWP excels. That personal touch, which leads so naturally to educational and technical assistance and best-practice implementation, often makes the difference, enabling and empowering people in both rural and urban areas who are interested in doing their part to ensure cleaner water and better soil health at home and in their region. As the hard work and achievements of the FCWP and partners in 2012 illustrate, this is an effective approach to backyard conservation in Hamilton, Hancock, Madison, and Marion Counties. Contact Leslie at 317-773-2181 or for presentations, lunch and learn sessions, technical assistance and questions about cost-share programs that can help you and your community install backyard conservation practices.

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