The Van Wert Soil and Water Conservation District is supervising a new state conservation program to help imrpvoe water quality in Lake Erie. Pictured, the Van Wert SWCD office. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)
The Van Wert Soil and Water Conservation District is supervising a new state conservation program to help imrpvoe water quality in Lake Erie. Pictured, the Van Wert SWCD office. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)

VAN WERT — A new state conservation program aiming to help improve water quality in Lake Erie is being supervised by the Van Wert Soil and Water Conservation District. The new program was authorized with the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 150. The bill, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, is called the Lake Erie Nutrient Reduction Program (LENRP). The emphasis is to reduce nutrient runoff from agricultural fields into the lake. Ingredients which run from fields to the lake are blamed with providing food for harmful algal blooms.

The program is supervised locally by Van Wert SWCD. Also working with the project, which takes in 27 counties, are the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) through the Ohio Clean Lakes Initiative. The goal of the LE NRP is to improve water quality in Lake Erie and 5,000 miles of streams. A total of $1.25 million will be available to producers in these counties of northeastern Ohio to help farmers use the best management practices on more than 40,000 acres of the Lake Erie watershed.

“Farmers have shown us they’re serious about improving Lake Erie,” stated ODNR Director James Zehringer. “ODNR is pleased to partner with Ohio’s local soil and water conservation districts to get more practices installed as soon as possible.”



A statement from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation said, “As we have seen in recent weeks, the importance of protecting our water resources is of the highest priority. We know that solving the problem will require a comprehensive approach that addresses all of the factors that are contributing to our water quality challenges. Ohio Farm Bureau appreciates Gov. Kasich’s announcement today that the state will be investing $1.25 million in conservation techniques that farmers can use to help them continue their work to protect water quality. Ohio farmers are committed to doing their part to address our water quality challenges, and we’re glad to see the governor’s multifaceted approach includes $150 million in investments for upgrades to drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure and $2 million in additional research.”

Kris Swartz, vice president of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, stated, “This multi-faceted announcement proves Ohio’s commitment to improving the health of Lake Erie,” said Kris Swartz, Vice President of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. “Ohio’s soil and water conservation districts are actively working with farmers to implement best management practices and this additional funding will allow us to help more producers by getting additional practices on the ground now. We look forward to working with our partners at ODNR and Ohio’s continued leadership in improving water quality.”

The LE NRP is a voluntary program that reimburses farmers to plant cover crops or install drainage management devices such as controlled drainage structures or blind tile inlets. In addition to reducing runoff of nutrients and pesticides the practices will allow farmers to manage and maintain the water from their fields after harvest and during the growing season, ultimately enhancing production. Cropland enrolled must be approved by local SWCD technical staff and ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources area engineers.

ODNR anticipates planting cover crops on up to 25,000 acres and installing more than 300 structures. This funding is in addition to the $3.5 million already appropriated through the Ohio Clean Lakes Initiative for best management practices and water quality monitoring. Farmers who own land in Van Wert County are encouraged to contact the Van Wert SWCD at (419) 238-9591 or www.vanwertswcd.org.