Manchester University partners with the Natural Resources Conservation Service for $1.45 million conservation funds during 2013.
Manchester University Environmental Studies Program is a primary partner with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Mississippi River Basin Initiative for $2.9 million available from 2010-2013 to Eel River landowners and agribusinesses in Kosciusko, Wabash and Miami Counties in an effort to reduce movement of phosphorus, nitrogen and soil into streams. Through this program three different Manchester students have served as water quality research technicians.
The $2.9 million comes from the Natural Resources Conservation Service as part of the Mississippi River Basin Initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to provide financial assistances to avoid, control, and trap nutrient and soil runoff into streams while maintaining agricultural productivity. The Eel River watershed was designated as one of 41 watersheds in the entire Mississippi River basin. The Eel was selected for funding primarily because of the volume of data collected by Manchester University scientists and students over the past five years. “Our relationship with the agricultural community and our ability to monitor and detect changes in nutrient export was central to bringing this money to our area” Jerry Sweeten, associate professor of biology and director of environmental studies.
Kayla Werbianskyj, Matt Linn and, Ed Braun backpack electrofishing
Excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) along with sediment entering the Eel River are far-reaching and these excess nutrients and soil are known to create a hypoxic zone (low dissolved oxygen) in the Gulf of Mexico which now covers nearly 6,000 square miles. “By reducing the nutrient export from the Corn Belt region, it will hopefully reduce the hypoxic zone and improve the water quality of the Eel River,” said Sweeten. The Eel River flows into the Wabash River, which flows into the Ohio River, which flows into the Mississippi.
All of the grant will be spent on best management practices initiated voluntarily by Eel River watershed landowners, appropriated by soil conservation districts and natural resources offices in the three counties. Among possible best practices: cover crops planted in the fall to protect soil over the winter, buffers along streams, fencing livestock away from the river and feeder streams and restoring wetlands. Over the course of the grant (2010-2013), over $3 million will have been allocated to agricultural producers and has affected over 10,000 acres.