May 31, 2019

Stormwater project recognized with top environmental award

BATAVIA, Ohio (May 31, 2019) — The Clermont County Soil & Water District (SWCD), the Clermont Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ), and the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development were awarded the top government stormwater project of the year at the 2019 Ohio Stormwater Conference held in Sharonville on May 8-10.

The project, funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, involved the installation of an urban stormwater detention basin on a farm in Jackson Township in Clermont County in 2015. Its purpose was to remove nutrients from soil runoff. The nutrients are one of the causes of harmful algae blooms in Harsha Lake.

Results have shown that 31% of total nitrogen and 31% of total phosphorus have been removed from the runoff.

“The need to address nutrient runoff is important because it degrades water quality and contributes to algae blooms that are occurring around the world,” said Jake Hahn, technician with SWCD. “The soils that we have in our county are very unique to Ohio and an ‘outside the box’ approach was needed because current management practices do not always apply in our area.”

The partnership that made this project successful, coined the East Fork Water Quality Cooperative, includes many county, state and federal agencies, landowners, and the private industry.

“This project speaks to the great success of everyone working together for a viable solution,” said Hannah Lubbers, Director of OEQ.

April 19, 2019

Changes to conservation program should appeal to farmers

BATAVIA, Ohio (April 19, 2019) — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2019.  Applications must be submitted by May 10.

Lori Lenhart, NRSC district conservationist for Brown and Clermont Counties, said, “This program is a great way for agricultural producers to take conservation activities on their farm to the next level. While this program has not been as popular as other NRCS programs in the past, the 2018 Farm Bill made several changes to CSP which should increase interest.”

The 2018 Farm Bill authorizes NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments from now until 2023, and made some important improvements to the program. These updates include:

  • NRCS now enrolls eligible, high-ranking applications based on dollars rather than acres. For fiscal 2019, NRCS can spend up to $700 million in the program, which covers part of the cost for producers implementing new conservation activities and maintaining their existing activities.
  • Higher payment rates are now available for certain conservation activities, including cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations.
  • CSP now provides specific support for organic and for transitioning to organic production activities and a special grassland conservation initiative for certain producers who have maintained cropland base acres.

CSP is offered in Ohio through continuous sign-ups. The program provides many benefits including increased crop yields, wildlife habitat improvements, and increased resilience to weather extremes. Eligible land uses for CSP enrollment include cropland, pastureland and forested land.

While applications are accepted throughout the year, interested producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office by May 10 to ensure consideration for 2019 funding. For more information, contact Lenhart at lori.lenhart@oh.usda.gov, or (513) 732-2181 ext. 3.

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April 9, 2019

Watershed plan to be updated; public input invited

BATAVIA, Ohio (April 9, 2019) — The Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is in the process of updating the watershed action plan for the Lower East Fork Little Miami River, and would like to hear from residents about the water quality needs for this area.

The Lower East Fork watershed encompasses the land area that drains to the East Fork from a point downstream of Stonelick Creek to where the East Fork joins the Little Miami River downstream of Milford. In December 2003, Clermont SWCD and members of the East Fork Watershed Collaborative completed a watershed action plan that summarized the existing conditions and laid out strategies for protecting or improving water quality. Several items listed in the 2003 plan have been accomplished, but new challenges and regulations have arisen since the plan was completed, necessitating an update.

Clermont SWCD will accept public comments through Friday, May 31. A copy of the current plan is posted on Clermont SWCD’s website at www.clermontswcd.org. Comments or questions can be addressed to Becky McClatchey, SWCD natural resource specialist, at rmcclatchey@clermontcountyohio.gov, or 513.732.7075 ext. 6. Written comments can also be sent to Clermont SWCD, P.O. Box 549, Owensville, OH 45160.

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March 6, 2019

Plant native! You’ll find plenty of options at annual plant sale

OWENSVILLE, Ohio – Planting native is the best way to sustain pollinators, says Susie Steffensen of the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District. A variety of native plants that will thrive in this climate are available at the SWCD’s annual plant sale. Details and pictures can be found at store.clermontswcd.org.

“Beneficial insect and pollinator populations are in serious decline due to agriculture and land development,” Steffensen said. “Monocultures (plantings of the same species on large areas) do not provide the food that insects need.”

Monocultures include lawns, land dominated by bush honeysuckle, and crop fields.

Insects evolved along with their native plants and in most cases cannot feed on non-native plantings. Bee and butterfly populations are in trouble due to pesticides, monocultures, and the destruction of weeds and wild flowers, such as milkweed — the only food and habitat the Monarch butterfly larva need to survive, Steffensen said. “The pesticides used by most lawn care companies and those sold in stores kill all insects, not just the ones that cause lawn damage,” she said.

Herbicides eliminate weeds, which are crucial food sources for native insects. “We are encouraging land owners to plant beneficial flowers, bushes and trees to help stabilize and increase these populations,”  Steffensen said. “Life isn’t perfect and aren’t a few weeds in your grass worth the tradeoff for a healthier environment? Dandelions? These are the first food in the spring for insects!”

Another plus? Once established, native plants require little or no maintenance while non-native plants may require extra watering, fertilizing, staking, and may be more susceptible to insect and disease damage.

Clermont SWCD’s annual plant sale supplies native plants that are best suited for local growing conditions and provide crucial habitat and food for pollinators and wildlife. Trees such as red oaks, white flowering dogwoods, and redbuds, and shrubs including buttonbush, spicebush, and black chokeberry are among the plants for sale.

“We sell small, bare root seedlings; for best livability, we suggest you plant the seedlings in pots and give them extra care for the first year or two,” Steffensen said.

Prepaid orders can be placed at the store website online: store.clermontswcd.org. Online orders can be taken through April 24. Buyers can pick up their plants April 26-27 at the SWCD offices on the Clermont County Fairgrounds.

If you would like to be added to the Conservation Plant Sale email list, please call 513-732-7075 X 102, or email ssteffensen@clermontcountyohio.gov.

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About the Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District:

Established in 1943, the district works with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and farmers to control erosion, promote water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on agricultural working lands. The district provides technical assistance, grants and cost share funding, educational programming and other resources to urban, rural and suburban landowners to help them address a diverse range of local conservation issues. For more information, visit www.clermontswcd.org or call 513.732.7075.

Posted in: SWCD
February 27, 2019

SWCD offers free annual pond clinic April 9

BATAVIA, Ohio (Feb. 26, 2019) — Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) will offer a free pond clinic to pond owners and managers at 5:30 p.m. on April 9 at the Cincinnati Nature Center-Rowe Woods at 4949 Tealtown Road, Milford.

This year the pond clinic will include additional speakers, a new breakout session format, and a pond walk from 4-5 p.m. before the event, weather permitting.

Eugene Braig, program director of Ohio State University Extension Aquatic Ecosystems Program, will deliver the opening presentation “The Aging Process: Keeping Ponds Healthy for the Long Run.” Breakout sessions will include Ponds 101 with Jake Hahn of the SWCD; fish stocking with Jones Fish Hatchery; pond weed control also with Jones Fish Hatchery, and the benefits of riparian buffers for wildlife attraction and pond protection with Olivia Espinoza of the Nature Center.

“Our event is one of the largest in the area and we want to continue to grow this program to best inform our pond managers,” Hahn said. More than 5,000 ponds are in Clermont County, and being used for different purposes. “We hope our event can be a place for pond owners to interact with other owners in the area to solve management problems with the guidance of our expert speakers,” Hahn said.

“Through this clinic, citizens will learn how recreational and storm water ponds can be maintained, and the steps to planning their own new ponds,” he said. “Since ponds are not a common natural landscape feature in our area, they need additional maintenance and care to function properly and meet the landowners’ expectations.”  Clermont SWCD’s goal is to help construct and maintain a safe, functional, and attractive pond. Clermont County Farm Bureau is sponsoring the event.

There is no cost, but registration is required to gain free admission to the Cincinnati Nature Center. To register or for more information, go to www.clermontswcd.org or contact Clermont SWCD at 513.732.7075. ####

Posted in: SWCD
February 26, 2019

Meet Hannah Lubbers, new director of OEQ, Solid Waste District

BATAVIA, Ohio (Feb. 26, 2019) – Hannah Lubbers, the new director of the Clermont County Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) and the Adams-Clermont Solid Waste District, came by her love of the outdoors naturally.

Growing up in the City of Hamilton, she and her family enjoyed hiking and canoeing, at Hueston Woods and the Whitewater River in Indiana.

Lubbers was hired by Paul Braasch, the recently retired director of both offices, almost 11 years ago, as a program manager for the OEQ. She had just completed her Masters in biology at the University of Cincinnati. Her undergrad degree at UC was in environmental studies.

“I started as a chemistry major in college,” she said. “I took a class in environmental policy and I got interested in environmental studies – where policy and science intersect.”

That was perfect for her new job, where she specialized in understanding the watershed of the East Fork of the Little Miami River, and studying best management practices (BMPs) that would help farmers to decrease nutrient runoff.

The Office of Environmental Quality is one of the members of the East Fork Watershed Cooperative, an organization comprised of federal, state and county stakeholders that has conducted extensive research on the watershed to improve water quality.

When she began her work, Lubbers said, “We were more focused on wastewater effluent in streams. But local water quality data showed that runoff from agriculture also significantly impacted water quality.”

Partners in the East Fork Watershed Cooperative, including the USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Clermont County Soil & Water Conservation District, have been crucial to enlisting county farmers to use methods, such as planting cover crops and installing biological treatment systems, that lessen nutrient runoff.

And the unique nature of the cooperative has allowed it to pull in state and federal funding, Lubbers said. More than $3 million in grants to Clermont and Brown counties is funding cover crops and other BMPs, enough for 12,000 acres. In 2018, the NRCS allocated an additional $600,000 to the area to fund various agriculture projects, all in the service of improving the quality of water in the watershed.

Lubbers wears another hat as director of the Adams-Clermont Solid Waste District. “My primary goal is to ensure the sustainability of recycling,” she said. In 2018, the Solid Waste District helped Batavia, Ohio and Williamsburg townships secure curbside recycling via waste franchising to over 8,000 households.

“I want to make sure that all county residents maintain access to recycling,” she said. Currently, residents of Union Township, the largest township in Clermont County, have limited curbside recycling opportunities. There are also no drop-off sites in Union Township; several drop-off sites throughout the county have been closed because of illegal dumping.

“One of our goals is to make sure that recycling is available at apartment complexes,” Lubber said. Once more townships adopt curbside recycling, and more apartments have recycling bins, there won’t be as great a need for the drop-off sites, she said.

Lubbers, who lives in Clermont County, loves its natural beauty. She loves and appreciates the rural nature of much of the county. And she wants to make sure that is preserved while the county continues to grow in jobs and population.

Litter – which mars so many of the roadways in the county — is one thing that gets to her.  In 2018, an astounding 88 tons of litter was removed from rivers and streams in the county, much of it during the annual Spring Litter Clean-Up.

“There’s that phrase, ‘Think globally, act locally,’” Lubbers says “NOT littering, and picking up litter when you see it, is one way of acting locally. It doesn’t have to be your garbage – pick it up!”

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February 19, 2019

Meet new director of Ohio Department of Agriculture April 8

Dorothy Pelanda

BATAVIA, Ohio (Feb. 19, 2019) — Dorothy Pelanda, the new director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), is hosting a series of informal meet-and-greet events across Ohio. The meetings will present the opportunity for Director Pelanda to introduce herself, share information regarding her background, and listen to thoughts and ideas from members of Ohio’s food and agriculture industry.

Pelanda, who lives on the same family farm in Marysville that she grew up on, served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2011 until her appointment as ODA director.

The events will be hosted in conjunction with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The events are open to the public and members of the media are welcome to attend.  Pelanda’s meet-and-greet for Brown, Clermont, Adams and Highland counties will be held on Monday, April 8, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Brown County Fairgrounds, 325 W. State Street, Georgetown OH 45121.

For information, call the ODA Office of Communications at 614.752.9817, or the Brown County Soil and Water Conservation District at 937.378.4424.

 

Posted in: SWCD
January 7, 2019

Students invited to enter T-Shirt Design Contest

OWENSVILLE, Ohio (Jan. 7, 2019) – All local K-12 students are invited once again to participate in the annual Spring Litter Clean-Up T-Shirt Design Contest.  Sponsored locally by the Duke Energy Foundation, the Clermont County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Southern Ohio Association of Realtors (SOAR), the T-shirt contest helps to jump-start planning for the clean-up event, scheduled for Saturday, April 13.

Any K-12 student attending a school located in Clermont County, or within the East Fork watershed, may register to compete. T-shirt designs should emphasize litter clean-up and prevention. Students should register and review the rules on the event website: www.springlittercleanup.com.

The grand prize winner will be awarded $100, with an additional $100 going to the winning student’s school art department. There will also be 13 grade-level awards given at $25 each.

Designs must be submitted by Feb. 8.

The Spring Litter Clean-Up will be held from 9 a.m.-noon on April 13 in various communities across the county and watershed. The clean-up is a combination of two events that have proved successful for more than 20 years in Clermont County – the East Fork River Sweep and Clermont Clean & Green events. The event is coordinated each year by the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District and the Valley View Foundation.

(Photo: Last year’s winner, Leah Decatur, center.)

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December 3, 2018

East Fork returns to natural path in Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG, Ohio (Dec. 3, 2018) – The East Fork of the Little Miami River once more meanders on a natural path through the Village of Williamsburg, no longer constrained by a dam that was built in the early 1930s.

The low-head dam, built during the Great Depression along with a waterworks pump station to provide drinking water to the Village, was breached on Oct. 13. On Nov. 30, a ribbon cutting was held on the banks of the East Fork where the dam once stood to mark the completion of the project.

More than 60 low-head dams have been removed across the State of Ohio, said Rebecca McClatchey, watershed coordinator at the Clermont  Soil & Water Conservation District. McClatchey, who coordinated the project, noted that these dams are dangerous. They create churn and can mask risky conditions. In 1974, brothers Kenny and Tom Harris drowned just below the dam in Williamsburg. A memorial in their honor in 2015 spurred renewed interest in removing the dam, and restoring the river to its natural path.

The project, which was funded by a $763,000 grant from the Ohio EPA’s Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program (WRRSP), took several years of planning. Partners included the Village of Williamsburg and Williamsburg Township, the Ohio EPA, the SWCD, the Clermont County Parks District, Dualite, Sunesis Construction, Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Wood PLC, and Olde Fireshouse Brewery. Another partner was the City of Akron, which sponsored the project through the WRRSP.

Oct. 13 was breach day. As the dam was breached, it lowered the river level upstream and exposed hundreds of mussels along the river banks. Sixty-plus volunteers worked on both sides of the river to collect more than 500 mussels, which were either planted upstream or moved to the Mill Creek in Hamilton County.

After the dam was demolished work was done to reshape the channel, said Warren High, a senior biologist with Wood PLC who managed the project. The banks have been seeded with riparian grass, and shrubs and trees will be planted next spring. “We can expect to see greater diversity in fish and other species,” High said. Water quality will improve and the river will be better for kayakers, he and McClatchey said.

Williamsburg Mayor Mary Ann Lefker thanked the village’s partners at the ribbon cutting, particularly the Soil & Water Conservation District, which took the lead on the project. #####

How the low-head dam looked before demolition.

The East Fork has begun to reclaim its natural shape after the dam was removed.

 

Posted in: BCC, SWCD
October 17, 2018

Mussel collection a success as dam is breached in Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG, Ohio (Oct. 17, 2018) – The work was slimy but rewarding: More than 60 volunteers collected hundreds of mussels on Saturday, Oct. 13, during a dam removal project in the Village of Williamsburg.

The dam, on the East Fork of the Little Miami River, was built in the early 1930s as part of a local water works plant that supplied drinking water to residents. The plant was closed in 2003, and the dam was no longer needed. The Clermont County Soil & Water Conservation District joined with the Village of Williamsburg

An example of the mussels collected.

to remove the dam this autumn to return the river to its natural state.

On Saturday, the dam was breached at 7:30 a.m., lowering the river level upstream and exposing hundreds of mussels along the river banks. Volunteers, coordinated by Environmental Solutions & Innovations, worked on both sides of the river to collect more than 500 mussels in the project area.  Breaching the dam and relocating the mussels are the first steps in the process; eventually the dam will be completely removed and stream restoration will begin.

“We encountered one problem — the mussels were so large that they overwhelmed the holding tanks and caused us to quit counting and just start relocating them as fast as we could,” said Warren High, a senior biologist with Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions. “We were unable to measure, weigh, and mark the mussels as planned due to the large number and size; a problem we were pleased to have had.” The East Fork of the Little Miami River has a well-documented diverse mussel population, including the rayed bean (Villosa fabalis), a state and federally endangered mussel.

Most of the mussels were moved upstream in the East Fork of the Little Miami River, but some were moved to the Mill Creek in Hamilton County to help replenish extinct mussel populations. “This is the first inter-basin mussel relocation to occur in Ohio,” High said. The mussels relocated to the Mill Creek included the white heelsplitter, fat mucket, and floater species, all of which have a higher tolerance for pollutants commonly found in urban streams.

In addition to the mussel relocation, volunteers also assisted with honeysuckle removal and planting shrub and tree seeds along the newly exposed banks. Old Firehouse Brewery helped sponsor the event. “We’re pleased to see so much community support for this project and we’re eager to see the river returned to a more natural state,” said Williamsburg Mayor Mary Ann Lefker.

In the coming weeks, crews will work to fully remove the dam and install restoration and bank stabilization features to complete the project. More information can be found on the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District website: https://www.clermontswcd.org/williamsburg-dam-removal/.

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