Meeting held on Lake Mauvaise Terre watershed project

By Jim McCabe on June 28 at 4:27am

Farmers got an update yesterday morning on a local watershed conservation project.

The Lake Mauvaise Terre Advisory Committee held a meeting at the University of Illinois Extension in Jacksonville to discuss the outreach program designed to reduce sediments and nutrient runoff in the watershed. About 30 people were in attendance, including several city council members.

Mike Baise, the director of the Midwest division of American Farmland Trust, says yesterday’s meeting is part of a two-year education and outreach effort to get interest in good farming practices in the watershed.

“We have not approached all the farmers in the watershed. We’ve approached some of the farmers in the watershed generally to see if they would be interested in an implementation grant in the future, and we’ve gotten very positive responses from several of the larger farmers, actually some of the smaller farmers who are at critical places in the watershed where there seems to be erosion, and it would be most impactful if we could get them involved,” Baise says.

Representatives from the state EPA were also at yesterday’s meeting. Baise says the watershed project is getting EPA funding in the form of a “319 grant” to foster further discussion with landowners.

“In a future grant, what we want to do is apply for funding so that we can actually go in the watershed and put some dollars on the land that would be considered soil-saving structures, that when you have a rain event that it would hold the soil in place,” he says.

The Lake Mauvaise Terre watershed includes about 21-thousand acres.

Baise says when soil runs off of farmer property in the watershed, it usually runs into Lake Mauvaise Terre.

He notes the city’s investing more than three-million dollars in a dredging project, and unless something’s done to contain future watershed erosion, there will be another dredging project in several decades.

Alderman Mike Wankel spoke on behalf of the city at yesterday’s meeting and said it’s excited about the watershed project. Officials are working with the city to commit to 20 percent of the project cost.

Watershed project coordinator Larry Werries and former Jacksonville mayor Ron Tendick will appear on the July 7th edition of “What’s On Your Mind?” to talk more about the project.