News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 20, 2013

IDEM efforts on Otter Creek move forward

Officials continue to seek more input

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Information about Otter Creek conservancy efforts continues to stream into the public as officials seek more input.

About 17 attendees participated in Thursday evening’s Otter Creek E. Coli TMDL stakeholder meeting hosted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management inside the Vigo County Annex. IDEM project manager Cory Fischer explained that the state is in the process of developing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program for the Otter Creek Watershed, which touches portions of Vigo, Clay and Parke counties.

“A watershed is a common body of water that other waters drain into,” he said, explaining that Otter Creek drains into the Wabash River, which leads to the Ohio River which ultimately runs to the Mississippi River and it into the Gulf of Mexico. ‘“We really want this to be a tool for watershed planning,” Fischer said.

Since 2001, the state has developed 1,055 TMDLs, such as the one at Busseron Creek in Sullivan County, and these programs help identify pollutants and determine their levels.

Part of the reporting process includes calculations regarding water quality standards and suggested recommendations for improvement.

“The definition of a TMDL is the sum of allowable loads from point sources, wasteload allocation and nonpoint sources, load allocation plus a margin of safety,” Fischer stated.

IDEM spokeswoman Staci Goodwin said Friday that information gleaned from Thursday’s meeting will go into a report to be reviewed at a future stakeholder meeting, all of which are part of the public input process for the program’s establishment.

“We anticipate that will be in the next four to six months and then another public meeting will be held,” she said, adding the agency has much of that data available for the public upon request. Data regarding water quality and other TMDL check-points is also available online at the IDEM website.

Eddie Adams, district conservationist with the Natural U.S. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resource Conversation Services in Vigo County, was among those participating Thursday evening. Projects such as this have led to the establishment of a separate conservancy district in Sullivan County regarding Busseron Creek, which drains into Sullivan Lake. In the long run, discussions about Otter Creek could have similar results.

“I would say … that would include the stakeholders in the watershed,” he said, emphasizing the long-term nature of such an endeavor.

Some wetland protection programs already exist within the Otter Creek area, including its entry point into the Wabash River, which is part of the state’s Healthy Rivers initiative, he said.

One of the points to such initiatives is the education it provides the public, Adams said, adding landowners need to be aware of issues such as dysfunctional septic systems, nutrient run-off and conservation programs in general. From homeowners with problematic septic systems to farmers using various cover crops during the winter, all involved can benefit from the discussion, he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.