Monday, December 22, 2014

Improving Our Watershed in Jefferson County, One Place At A Time

Submitted by: Mike Johnson, ISDA Resource Specialist Team Leader, Laura Fribley, ISDA District Support Specialist Team Leader, and Kayla Hubbard, Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) District Coordinator.  

Mike works from the Clark County office and services several Southeastern counties.  Mike has been with the Division of Soil Conservation for nearly 25 years.  He raises grain, hay and beef cattle on 350 acres in Clark County.  Laura’s based out of Floyd County and works with 16 counties in southern Indiana.  She has worked with the Division since 2006. Kayla works out of the Jefferson County office near the Fairgrounds and is a resident of the county.  She graduated from St. Andrews Presbyterian College and has worked for the SWCD since 2011. These three work together on Clean Water Indiana (CWI) grants, and other initiatives throughout the year.

Each year, county SWCDs have the option of applying for competitive CWI grants.  The CWI fund is administered by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture under the direction of the State Soil Conservation Board.  Jefferson County SWCD, located in southern Indiana along the Ohio River, actively participates in the grant program. 
“CWI grants have really made an impact for Jefferson County producers, because it gives them more incentive to put conservation practices on the ground. Without the grants our district would not have the funds to give the amount of incentive dollars to the nearly as many producers as we have in the last couple of years.” – Steve Riley, Jefferson Co SWCD Supervisor

Photo: Wheat field following no-till soybeans. The producers participating in the grant are required to no-till their row crops, have a soil test and apply a cover crop. Photo by Kayla.

How does this typically work locally?  First, the SWCD and other local conservation agencies determine what natural resource issues need to be addressed.  Then, the SWCD applies for a grant outlining their local needs and ways to address them.  Jefferson Co SWCD and surrounding counties have written great proposals over the years and have secured multiple grants.  Once they get the grant, the SWCD accepts cost-share applications from landowners and awards the funds based on a variety of criteria.  The projects undergo a “quality control” process too, meaning that it’s verified each project is qualified, meets established specs, and is completed.  Mike assists the SWCD a lot in this stage.
With these conservation grants, the SWCD has provided CWI cost share to landowners who implement a variety of soil saving practices including cover crops, forage and biomass planting, and residue and tillage management.  It’s a win-win for each, both from an economic and water quality standpoint. 

Photo: this picture shows a cover crop seeded after soybeans on highly erodible ground in Jefferson County.  The main component is crimson clover.  The producer no-tilled into it in the spring.  Photo by Mike.

From spring 2013 to summer 2014, 28 practices were implemented.  This affects approximately 900 acres.  Load reductions estimate these practices have saved 3,736 tons of sediment from entering local water bodies.  For another perspective, that’s about the same as filling:
  • 10,645 bath tubs
  • 85 Olympic size swimming pools, or
  • 141 backyard 15’ diameter swimming pools 

Wow! That’s amazing. Each of these individual practices really makes a difference and improves the local watershed, one place at a time.

Photo: this is a hay field that was in row crops two years prior.  To receive cost share, producers were required to convert row crops to forage or pasture.  Photo by Kayla.

For more information on CWI grants in your region of the state, visit:
For more information on the Jefferson County SWCD, visit their website or FaceBook page:

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