Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force

Hypoxia Task Force Success Stories

From Minnesota and Wisconsin to Louisiana and Mississippi, individual HTF states and federal agencies, as well as their partners, have undertaken a variety of successful projects and programs to reduce nutrient loads in order to improve water quality in the MARB and reduce the size of the Gulf hypoxic zone. A sample of these “success stories” is presented here geographically. The stories were developed for the Hypoxia Task Force 2015 Report to Congress. Additional stories are available in the Hypoxia Task Force Annual Reports. Access the full reports here.

Click on the list below to explore these stories and learn more about the efforts being taken to reduce hypoxia throughout the Mississippi/Atchafalaya Basin.

EPA also maintains a website describing success stories where Clean Water Act section 319 grants provided funding for projects that reduced nonpoint source pollution (including nitrogen and phosphorus) to waterbodies nationwide. Learn more about these successful efforts that can ultimately help reduce the size of the hypoxic zone.

Arkansas Highlights


Illinois River Watershed. The Illinois River watershed, located in northwest Arkansas, has been the focus of multi-year efforts to reduce nutrient (phosphorus) loadings from nonpoint and point sources.  Coordinated efforts in the Illinois River watershed have consisted of legal, regulatory, and voluntary reduction activities that have proved effective in nutrient reduction and water quality improvement. City, county, state, federal, and private industry partnerships have been formed to address nutrient management issues “on-the-ground” in local communities and have resulted in positive changes to existing policies and legal mechanisms available to support nutrient reduction. A few highlights of reduction efforts in the Illinois River watershed include:

  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) nutrient limits for wastewater dischargers
  • Increased water quality monitoring and reporting
  • Registration of all poultry and livestock production operations, on-farm nutrient management planning, certification of nutrient management planners and applicators
  • Increased funding for USDA conservation and state nonpoint programs
  • Research and study of new nutrient markets and market-based solutions
  • Development of watershed phosphorus nutrient index
  • Creation of proactive non-profit watershed groups and stakeholder involvement

The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC) and its partners successfully addressed surface erosion from agricultural activities through cost-effective targeting of CWA section 319 funds. The 2014 Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) water quality assessment has shown that exceedances of the turbidity standard for all flows (17 nephelometric turbidity units [NTU]) had declined to 18 percent in the 5-year period leading up to 2014. Therefore, ADEQ removed the turbidity impairment for the 2.5-mile segment of the Illinois River from its 2014 impaired waters list.


St. Francis River Watershed. In 2009 the Cross County Conservation District (CCCD), using CWA section 319 funds provided by the ANRC, began offering financial and technical assistance to help landowners implement water control structure BMPs called drop pipes. The BMPs prevent sediment from leaving agricultural fields by controlling the rate, velocity, and volume of field runoff. Many landowners took advantage of this opportunity; they installed 108 water control structures along with 10,120 feet of water transfer pipeline. In 2004 the CCCD used CWA section 319 funds to purchase a no-till drill that could be used by landowners with small agricultural operations. No-tilling allows for planting seed into the previous year’s crop residue without any tillage. The crop residue protects the soil and lessens the opportu­nity for erosion. From 2004 through 2009, landown­ers used the drill to reduce erosion on more than 5,400 acres. In 2010 the Poinsett County Conservation District (PCCD) followed CCCD’s lead and began providing financial and technical assistance to landowners to help implement water control structure BMPs. The PCCD implementation project, also supported by CWA section 319 funds from the ANRC, resulted in the addition of 287 water control structures on 63 different farms.

As a result of the practices implemented in the watershed, the 2014 ADEQ water quality assessment has shown that exceedances of the turbidity standard for all flows (100 NTU) declined to 23 percent in St. Francis River reaches 008 and 009. Therefore, ADEQ removed both reaches from Arkansas’s 2014 CWA section 303(d) list for turbidity impairment.


Illinois Highlights

Governor Bond Lake. Governor Bond Lake suffered from excessive algal growth and turbidity, causing Illinois to add the lake to its 1998 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters. The impairments were caused by suspended solids, nutrients, and other nonpoint source pollutants from within the lake (from legacy bottom sediments) and from the lake’s watershed. Project partners implemented BMPs such as stormwater wetland basins and shoreline protection and stabilization practices. As a result, levels of nutrients and suspended solids decreased, allowing Illinois to remove the lake from its 2006 303(d) list of impaired waters for those pollutants. (The waterbody, however, remains impaired by a high concentration of manganese from an unknown source.)

Illinois EPA administered $523,542 in section 319 funding for this project. Conservation 2000 and the Illinois Clean Lakes Program provided $383,339 in matching funds and technical and administrative assistance. The Illinois EPA Nonpoint Source Unit and Clean Lakes Unit and the city of Greenville helped review, develop, and install the completed BMPs. The city of Greenville contracted with several environmental engineering firms to create design specifications and oversee construction.

Dutchman Creek. Uncontrolled runoff from non-irrigated crop production had impaired the aquatic life designated use of Dutchman Creek, causing Illinois EPA to add the creek to the 1998 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters for nutrients and siltation. Stakeholders implemented a successful EPA-funded outreach and education program in the Dutchman Creek watershed that promoted no-till agricultural practices and prompted landowners to convert more than 400 acres of environmentally sensitive land back into forest. These changes improved water quality and restored the creek’s aquatic life use, allowing Illinois to remove the creek from its 2008 303(d) list of impaired waters.

The Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area administered the two Cache River forestation projects. Excluding administration costs, a total of $26,799 in section 319 funds and $28,615 in state and local funds was spent in the Dutchman Creek watershed to implement the 424.6 acres of tree planting. The Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District administered the county’s no-till drill project. Countywide, the project used $13,176 in CWA section 319 funds and $8,784 in state and local funds for education and to purchase a drill for operators’ use. The district has continued the program and now has four no-till drills available for producers to rent.

Charleston Side Channel Reservoir. Erosion from agriculture and other land-based activities resulted in elevated levels of manganese, sediment, and phosphorus in the Charleston Side Channel Reservoir (CSCR). The pollutants contributed to excess algal growth. Illinois EPA added the CSCR to the state’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters beginning in 1998 for a variety of pollutants, including phosphorus, sediment, and manganese (added in 2004). To reduce erosion and manage nutrients, project partners installed shoreline stabilization structures and other BMPs. Manganese levels dropped, prompting Illinois EPA to remove the reservoir from the 2008 CWA section 303(d) list for manganese. Partners installed BMPs on city property and privately owned land in the two watersheds. All the practices were designed to control erosion and reduce sediment delivery to the lake and river and, in turn, reduce the amount of nutrients being transported by the sediment to the lake.

The BMPs installed in the CSCR watershed reduced the pollutant load by an estimated 1,627 tons of sediment per year, 1,371 pounds of phosphorus per year, and 2,738 pounds of nitrogen per year. EPA provided $194,449 in CWA section 319 funding to Illinois EPA to support implementation of BMPs that reduced sediment and nutrient loads, including streambank and lakeshore stabilization and installation of an in-lake sediment detention basin. The city of Charleston, Coles County Soil and Water Conservation District, Illinois Department of Agriculture, and Eastern Illinois University also used CWA section 319 funding to install BMPs.


Indiana Highlights

School Branch Watershed Monitoring Project. The School Branch watershed covers roughly 8.4 square miles and feeds into Eagle Creek Reservoir, a source of drinking water for Indianapolis. Its land use consists of an agriculture-to-urban development ratio of about 3:2 (about 60 percent row crops and 40 percent suburban residences). The project goal is to measure the impact of good agricultural practices on the landscape, comparing water quality above the participating farm in the watershed with water quality below the farm in the watershed. Conservation practices include riparian and grass buffers, a nutrient-removal bioreactor, a strict no-till tillage system, and use of cover crops. Some monitoring is already underway, but the rest of the project is set to start up in late 2015. Monitoring will include:

  • Edge-of-field sensors measuring nitrate-nitrite leaving agricultural tiles on a participating farm (sampling now underway).
  • A USGS Sentry Gauge (to be installed summer 2015) monitoring water leaving the farm, measuring nitrate, phosphorus, sediment, and temperature, as well as a gauge at the bottom of the watershed.
  • Isotope sampling by USGS to determine sources of nitrogen loading in the watersheds.
  • Indiana Geological Survey’s monitoring wells for groundwater and soil moisture probes measuring soil moisture and temperature on the farm, to accompany Sentry Gauge (to be installed summer 2015).
  • Monthly fixed-station monitoring by IDEM (ongoing).
  • Biweekly fixed-station water quality monitoring by Marion County Health Department (ongoing).

Jenkins Ditch. Agricultural activities related to crop cultivation and hydrological modification contributed nonpoint source pollution to Jenkins Ditch, causing the waterbody to fail to support its aquatic life designated use. As a result, in 2006 IDEM added Jenkins Ditch (a 2.13-mile segment) to Indiana’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters for poor fish community biological integrity. Stakeholders implemented BMPs in the watershed and conducted education and outreach activities to raise community awareness, resulting in improved water quality. The waterbody now supports its aquatic life designated use. As a result, IDEM removed Jenkins Ditch from Indiana's list of impaired waters in 2012.

Among the many partners involved in these activities were the Clinton, Howard, Tipton, and Tippecanoe County Soil and Water Conservation Districts; the Greater Wabash River Resource Conservation and Development Council; Purdue Cooperative Extension; Hoosier Riverwatch; and NRCS. Partners used $729,000 in CWA section 319 funds to implement restoration projects throughout the watershed. Another $462,000 in CWA section 319 matching funds supported the work of a variety of project partners.

INfield Advantage (formerly Indiana On Farm Network). The Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Division of Soil Conservation received a $450,000 competitive USDA grant in 2010 to establish the On Farm Network (OFN) in Indiana over three years. The grant was matched with checkoff funds and support from the IN Corn Marketing Council and IN Soybean Alliance. The project has exceeded original grant goals. The project’s objective was to engage three watersheds within the Indiana portion of the Mississippi River Basin. Each watershed’s goal was to enroll 40 to 50 fields with 10 to 15 farmers on average. In 2014, the Indiana On-Farm Network® was more than five times larger than expected and includes 22 groups in 19 watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin. On average, each watershed has 12 or 13 growers engaged and more than 34 fields enrolled. During the project, over 142,000 acres have been evaluated with the On-Farm Network’s® tools and 264 growers have been introduced to the participatory learning process. In 2015, Indiana On-Farm Network will be rebranded as INfield Advantage.

Iowa Highlights

Clear Creek. Runoff from agricultural areas and waste from leaking septic systems sent pollution to Clear Creek, preventing the stream from meeting several of Iowa’s water quality standards. As a result, the Iowa DNR added a 7-mile segment of Clear Creek to the state’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2004. Watershed partners implemented agricultural BMPs and coordinated construction of a wastewater treatment facility to replace leaking septic systems. The DNR estimates that landowners reduced phosphorus delivery by 10,081 pounds per year. In 2009, DNR staff conducted a field check, finding that Clear Creek showed improved water quality conditions with no evidence of untreated or poorly treated wastewater in the stream. The DNR determined that Clear Creek no longer exceeds Iowa’s narrative water quality standards and now fully supports its general uses. As a result, DNR removed the 7-mile segment of Clear Creek from the state’s list of impaired waters in 2010.

Several funding sources supported the installation of practices to control soil erosion and phosphorus delivery: the EPA CWA section 319 program ($250,000), IDALS–Division of Soil Conservation’s Water Protection Fund ($196,560), NRCS EQIP ($166,775), USDA Conservation Reserve Program ($60,940), and Iowa Financial Incentive Program ($75,000). Landowners contributed another $182,460 toward implementation of practices in the project.

Iowa CREP Wetlands. The Iowa CREP is a joint effort of IDALS and USDA’s Farm Service Agency, in cooperation with local soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs). The goal of the program is to reduce nitrogen loads and the movement of other agricultural chemicals from croplands to streams and rivers by targeting wetland restorations to “sweet spots” on the landscape that provide the greatest water quality benefits. CREP wetlands are positioned to receive tile drainage by gravity flow, which enables natural wetland processes to remove nitrates and herbicides from the water before it enters streams and rivers.

Research and monitoring has demonstrated that these strategically sited and designed CREP wetlands remove 40 to 70 percent of nitrates and over 90 percent of herbicides from cropland drainage waters. The highly targeted nature of this program has led to 72 wetlands currently restored and another 24 under development. During their lifetimes, the wetlands are expected to remove more than 100,000 tons of nitrogen from 121,650 acres of cropland. In 2013, the number of restored wetlands reached an annual capacity of removing over 1 million lbs of nitrogen. The 96 targeted restorations total more than 888 acres of wetlands and 3,100 acres of surrounding buffers planted to native prairie vegetation.

Even with the impressive results so far, Iowa continues to explore and develop new technologies to optimize wetland performance by incorporating additional considerations for habitat, hydraulic efficiency, and temporary flood storage benefits. CREP wetlands are already providing high-quality wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities in addition to water quality benefits. The high-quality buffers, in conjunction with the shallow wetland habitats, have proven to be a tremendous boon to a multitude of wildlife species commonly found in these areas. The areas have shown that targeting wetland restoration for water quality benefits does not come at the expense of mutual habitat and recreational benefits.


Kentucky Highlights

Fleming Creek. Pollutants in agricultural runoff impaired water quality in Kentucky’s Fleming Creek and many of its tributaries. The KDOW added numerous watershed segments to Kentucky’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 1994 because of pathogens or nutrients and organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen. Using approximately $3.6 million in state and federal financial support, watershed partners implemented numerous restoration activities, including targeted agricultural BMPs. Although much of the watershed still does not fully support its primary contact recreation use, habitat and biological monitoring indicate that a 4.8-mile segment of Fleming Creek now fully supports its designated use of warm water aquatic habitat. As a result, KDOW removed the segment from Kentucky’s 2006 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters.

Project partners include agricultural producers, Fleming County Conservation District Board of Supervisors, Fleming County Conservation District, Kentucky Division of Conservation, KDOW, Redwing Ecological Services, Inc., the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extensive Service and Department of Agronomy, and the Community Farm Alliance.

Federal financial assistance provided through CWA section 319 supported targeted BMP efforts in the watershed. Between 1991 and 2007, watershed partners spent more than $1.6 million and contributed more than $970,000 in nonfederal match contributions. The Kentucky Soil Erosion and Water Quality Cost Share Program provided cost-share assistance to landowners to install agricultural BMPs worth $2,134,884 in the watershed. The state cost-share program provided $1,408,288; landowners provided another $726,595 in cash payments or in-kind labor.

Several USDA programs, including the Agricultural Conservation Program, Water Quality Special Project, EQIP, and Conservation Reserve Program supported landowners’ efforts to install agricultural BMPs. Since 1992, more than $1.2 million in federal financial support from USDA has been targeted to the Fleming Creek watershed for implementing agricultural BMPs.


Louisiana Highlights

Lake St. Joseph Special Project. Lake St. Joseph is a 1,580-acre oxbow lake located in the Ouachita Basin in Louisiana and is located in a region that is largely agricultural. A CWA section 319 project approved for the Tensas-Concordia Soil and Water Conservation District aims to improve water quality in the lake with a suite of incentive-based BMPs focused on the lake’s impairments. Ninety-three percent (or 14 out of 15) of the agricultural producers in the 17,835-acre watershed are now implementing one or more of those practices. The Louisiana State University AgCenter, a cooperating agency in the project, is responsible for monitoring the lake and analyzing the data collected in the project. At this time, one year of data has been collected post-initial implementation of the BMPs.

Nonpoint Source Pollutant Reduction in Tensas River Watershed Using a Vegetative Filter Strip-Retention Pond System. The goal of this project was to determine whether a vegetated filter strip-retention pond system would reduce nutrient runoff to the Tensas River watershed as part of an effort to restore the waterbody to the point at which it would support its CWA designated uses. The data suggest that the filter strips are capturing the sediment, to which the phosphorus binds; however, the filter strips have not affected any of the nitrogen parameters.

The project demonstrates the effectiveness of filter strips for sediment trapping in northeast Louisiana. In terms of nutrient reduction, the strips are best suited for nutrients that are attached to soil particles or the colloidal organic fraction.

Winter Wheat Filter Strip for In-field Ditches to Reduce Nutrient and Sediment Runoff— A New Best Management Practice. This USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project aims to demonstrate the performance and effectiveness of conservation buffers (e.g., filter strips, vegetative barriers, contour buffer strips) by assessing the situational effectiveness of the component practice and design parameters (including appropriate width and plant materials).

In fall 2014, three treatments were being demonstrated: (1) no planted filter strip; (2) a 40-foot wheat filter strip, planted directly over the center of the in-field ditch; and (3) an Elbon rye filter strip planted directly over the in-field drainage ditch. The treatments are in three blocks, according to a randomized complete block design, across the field for a total of nine ditches. Water sampling will begin at the Feekes 2 growth stage and continue until the wheat is chemically burned down 3–4 weeks before planting in the spring of 2015. Nine ISCO water samplers will be placed in the middle of the in-field ditches to collect water from runoff events to evaluate the nutrient and sediment loss reduction attributable to this new BMP.


Minnesota Highlights

Sauk River Chain of Lakes. The Sauk River Chain of Lakes is an interconnected system of 14 bay-like lakes fed by the Sauk River in Central Minnesota. The Sauk River Chain of Lakes is impaired by phosphorus and total suspended solids due to row cropping and livestock operations, as well as discharges from on-site septic systems. Agricultural BMPs and upgrades to septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment facilities throughout the Sauk River Chain of Lakes watershed have reduced total phosphorus concentrations to 176 micrograms per liter (μg/L), nearly achieving the regional goal of 100–150 μg/L and representing a 48 percent decrease in total phosphorus loading.

Project costs since 1999 are estimated at $3.1 million. CWA section 319 provided $750,000 in funding to assist farmers with installing agricultural BMPs and to provide a septic system maintenance education program. Other funding sources included NRCS’ EQIP ($201,748), the Minnesota state cost-share program ($258,206), MPCA Clean Water Partnership funds ($465,221), and the CWA State Revolving Fund ($1.4 million in loans).

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, located 2.5 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, receives urban runoff delivering high levels of phosphorus and sediment from its fully developed 7,000-acre watershed. By implementing a widespread public education campaign, sediment control measures, and other practices throughout the watershed, the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Clean Water Partnership achieved significant in-stream reductions in sediment and phosphorus, which has helped to keep most of the lakes off the state’s CWA 303(d) list and has also brought a listed stream close to meeting water quality standards.

Most of the initiative was locally funded by the Minneapolis Park Recreation Board ($1.5 million), Minnehaha Creek Watershed District ($6.1 million), City of Minneapolis ($2.6 million), City of St. Louis Park ($663,000), and Hennepin County. MPCA provided critical diagnostic and seed money ($1.2 million). CWA section 319 funds totaled $255,000 and were used to fund kickoff efforts for the education campaign, a demonstration project on Lake Calhoun showing the effects of alum treatments, and research on the interaction between alum and milfoil (an invasive species).

Heron Lake Watershed. Runoff from agricultural and urban areas contributed phosphorus and sediment to water bodies in Minnesota’s Heron Lake watershed. Because three of the watershed lakes failed to meet Minnesota’s water quality standards, MPCA added them to the CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters—North Heron and South Heron lakes in 2002 and Fulda Lake in 2008. Implementing BMPs and conducting public outreach in the watershed have led to significant water quality improvements.

From 2007 to 2011, the Heron Lake Watershed District provided cost-share to encourage landowners in the Fulda Lakes subwatershed to implement conservation tillage, critical area plantings, and shoreline restoration projects to reduce water pollution. Landowners implemented conservation tillage on 5,828.5 acres. Watershed partners completed three shoreline restoration projects, ranging from a simple filter strip to a complex restoration involving a complete bank stabilization using all bioengineered practices. The district held a walking tour to showcase the shoreline restorations. According to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources’ eLINK system, implementing these practices prevented 1,251 pounds per year of phosphorus and 1,312 tons per year of sediment from leaving the land surface.

Restoration work in the Heron Lake watershed was supported by $114,043 in CWA section 319 funding. The district served as the project sponsor and lead agency, providing $59,880 in cash match and $37,325 through in-kind match.


Mississippi Highlights

Leveraging Resources to Implement Nutrient Reduction Strategies. Implementation of nutrient reduction strategies in the Mississippi Delta is an example of the state’s leveraging approach. To date, MDEQ has applied $7.07 million in 319 funds towards reducing nutrients as part of the nonpoint source projects listed below. The CWA section 319 funds have led to over $100 million in other federal, state, and private funds, which have been applied towards implementation of these projects. Some partners contributing towards these efforts include NRCS, EPA, the Corps, USGS, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Mississippi Soil and Water Commission, farmers, and private corporations.

Reducing Nutrients from Nonpoint Sources in the Delta. MDEQ is currently implementing components of the Mississippi Delta Nutrient Reduction Strategies in multiple watersheds within the delta region including Harris Bayou, Porter Bayou, Coldwater River, and Bee Lake. To date, numerous BMPs have been installed in the treatment areas within those watersheds. Installed BMPs include tail-water recovery systems; on-farm storage reservoirs; land-formed, low-grade weirs; water control structures; two-stage ditches; grass waterways; and cover crops. Nutrient data collection is ongoing for these projects and include both “pre-BMP” and “post-BMP” data. The data will help MDEQ document the water quality improvements obtained through conservation measures.

Reducing Nutrients from Point Sources. To date, Mississippi has developed over 300 TMDLs for nutrients across the state. Many of them call for significant reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus. Nonpoint sources will be addressed through projects similar to those discussed above. In many cases, TMDL studies indicate that a reduction in point source loading is also necessary to achieve the goals of the TMDL. Through combined efforts of the MDEQ TMDL and NPDES programs, over 280 NPDES facilities are now required to monitor for total nitrogen and total phosphorus. Of this number, over 120 of the facilities have received permit limits requiring total phosphorus and/or total nitrogen reductions.

Nutrient Reduction Strategy and Data Compendium. During the process of developing the Mississippi Delta Nutrient Reduction Strategies, MDEQ and its partners identified the need for a data compendium. Consequently, MDEQ, in partnership with USGS and the Corps, developed a geographic information system (GIS)-based data compendium to improve interagency communication and coordination concerning water quality/quantity data collection. A GIS toolkit provides access to the existing water quality and quantity data collected by the three agencies. A user can choose sites for inquiry, query databases, generate reports complete with maps, and much more. The mapping application allows users to obtain map-based information concerning water quality and quantity. The compendium helps to (1) foster increased access and use of the existing data; (2) identify gaps and/or overlaps in data collection; (3) promote collaboration and coordination of monitoring activities; and (4) improve water resource management.

The Mississippi Water Resources Data Compendium is available on the MDEQ website at http://www.deq.state.ms.us/mdeq.nsf/page/WMB_MississippiWaterResourcesDataCompendium?OpenDocumentExit.


Missouri Highlight

Fellows Lake. Point source and nonpoint source pollution from agricultural and suburban land sources affected water quality in Fellows Lake, prompting MDNR to add the lake to Missouri’s 1994 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters for mercury and nutrients. The Watershed Committee of the Ozarks (WCO) launched outreach and education activities, worked with landowners to implement BMPs, and conducted water quality monitoring. Water quality improved, and MDNR removed Fellows Lake from the state’s 2004/2006 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters.

The WCO has managed several CWA section 319-funded projects in the watershed and surrounding areas, including one for $276,500 that supported the main project responsible for restoring Fellows Lake. It has received technical assistance through partnerships with NRCS, soil and water conservation districts, and the Missouri Department of Conservation Professionals. It continues to work to improve water quality in the watershed and reduce nonpoint source pollution.


Ohio Highlights

Olentangy River. Lowhead dam structures, failing home septic systems, and increased agricultural and urban stormwater runoff had degraded water quality in Ohio’s Olentangy River. Failing home sewage treatment system units contributed nutrients to the river, and high-volume stormwater flows contributed silt and sediment. As a result, in 2002, Ohio EPA added a watershed-based unit of the river to the state’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters for failure to meet the water quality standards associated with the unit’s designated warm-water habitat aquatic life use. Because of work completed through the Olentangy River Restoration Project, approximately three miles of the Olentangy River now fully attain the designated warmwater habitat aquatic life use. Although additional monitoring is required, Ohio EPA expects to remove flow alteration as a cause of impairment in the watershed-based unit of the Olentangy River on the state’s 2014 list of impaired waters.

Key partners included the City of Delaware; Delaware County General Health District; Preservation Parks; Ohio’s Scenic Rivers; Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT); ODNR, Division of Soil and Water Resources; and Ohio EPA. EPA, Ohio EPA, the City of Delaware, and ODOT provided project funding. The city received a $105,000 CWA section 104(b)(3) grant to help support dam removals. Approximately $6.3 million was provided through Ohio EPA’s Water Resources Restoration Program for land and conservation easement acquisition. The health district received approximately $110,000 in CWA section 319 funding to support home sewage treatment system inspections and replacements. In addition, $70,000 in Ohio EPA Surface Water Improvement funds was awarded to the city of Delaware for additional dam removal work. All monitoring was completed by staff from Ohio EPA’s Ecological Assessment Unit.

4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification. The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program is a voluntary program launched in March 2014 to encourage agricultural retailers, service providers, and other certified professionals to adopt proven best practices through the 4Rs. The program is governed and guided by the Nutrient Stewardship Council, a diverse set of stakeholders from business, government, university, and nongovernmental sectors with a common goal of maintaining agricultural productivity while also improving water quality. The program is administered by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association (http://4rcertified.org/Exit). To date, the program’s focus has been in northern Ohio due to concerns about deteriorating water quality in Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys. There are currently 64 retailers signed up for the program, including several with retail locations in Michigan, Indiana, and the Ohio River Basin. Participating retailers must comply with up to 43 specific business and operational performance criteria established by the Nutrient Stewardship Council and audited by an independent third party. Three retailers involved with piloting the program have achieved certified status. The interest and enthusiasm generated by the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification in its first year is very positive and sustaining the program should promote long-term improvements in soil health and water quality.​


Tennessee Highlights

Blue Spring Creek. Runoff from livestock operations and unrestricted grazing was contributing high levels of sediment and nutrients to Blue Spring Creek in Coffee County, Tennessee. Education and the introduction of BMPs, including fencing, water facilities for cattle, and waste management systems, have helped to eliminate existing water quality problems, allowing the creek to be removed from Tennessee’s CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters.

This project received support from NRCS and the Coffee County Soil Conservation District, which designed and approved the animal waste management systems. The project costs totaled $110,219, including funding through the Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund (ARCF) and $8,733 of CWA section 319 funding, which was used to cover the costs of exclusion fencing, alternative water facilities, and pasture seeding.

Fall Creek. Polluted runoff from pasture grazing caused nutrients and sediment to enter into Fall Creek, which led to the listing of an 11.4-mile segment of the creek as impaired in 2002 and 2004. Using CWA section 319 funding, the Bedford County Soil Conservation District installed two major waste management systems on tributaries to Fall Creek in 1999. This action resulted in water quality improvements of the Fall Creek segment and its removal from the 2006 CWA 303(d) list of impaired waters.

Fall Creek has benefited from a total of $13,861 provided through cost-share from CWA section 319 grant pool projects. In addition, $94,747 was provided by a Tennessee state ARCF grant and local match.

West Sandy Creek. High nutrient concentrations from agricultural runoff, loss of biological integrity as a result of siltation, and habitat loss from streamside alteration caused Tennessee to put a 15-mile segment of West Sandy Creek on its CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2002 and 2004. Nutrient sources included agriculture use, bank and shoreline modification, and runoff from urbanized areas. To help address the problems, the Henry County Soil Conservation District implemented 10 BMPs, including grade-stabilization structures, water/sediment control basins, terrace construction, and hay and pasture plantings. The BMPs improved the water quality in the 15-mile segment, which was removed from the 2006 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters.

The Henry County Soil Conservation District implemented the BMPs with $24,817 provided by the Tennessee state ARCF through cost-share from CWA section 319 grant pool projects. In addition, local matching funds contributed $13,170.


Wisconsin Highlights

Eagle and Joos Valley Creeks Projects. Erosion from stream banks, pasturelands, and wooded grazing lands had contributed to excess sediment and degraded habitat in Wisconsin's Waumandee Creek watershed. As a result, segments of Eagle Creek and Joos Valley Creek (8.5 and 7.4 miles, respectively) were added to the state’s 1998 CWA section 303(d) list of impaired waters. Beginning in the mid-1990s, project partners implemented agricultural BMPs to limit soil erosion and nutrient loading. Partners also stabilized streambanks and waterways to restore fisheries habitat. Monitoring data showed that water quality improved in Eagle and Joos Valley creeks as a result of these efforts, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) removed both water bodies from the state’s list of impaired waters in 2012.

The success of this project is the result of coordination between multiple nongovernmental and local, state, and federal government partners. WDNR led watershed planning efforts prior to implementation, committed $392,044 in state Priority Watershed Program funds for BMP implementation, and supported monitoring and data evaluation in the watershed. Other funding for BMP implementation included $52,313 in EPA CWA section 319 funds (supporting the installation of riprap and barnyard runoff control systems) and grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Buffalo County Land Conservation Department played a key role in coordinating with local farmers to promote BMP implementation. The Fountain City and Alma Rod and Gun clubs helped with fundraising to meet farmer cost-sharing requirements; they also helped to install in-stream habitat structures and other stream restoration practices. USGS provided monitoring and data evaluation support during the 17-year Waumandee Creek watershed study. NRCS offered technical assistance for BMP implementation and provided Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funds to promote voluntary land retirement, which helps agricultural producers to protect natural resources. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture provided technical assistance, and the University of Wisconsin extension service led local education and outreach efforts throughout the watershed.

Pleasant Valley Watershed. Since 2009, farmers, conservation groups, and staff from a number of federal, state, and local agencies, including LGUs, have been working on a research and demonstration project in the Pleasant Valley Watershed in the Mississippi River Basin. The goal of the project is to test whether it is possible to use science to target implementation efforts to improve water quality at the lowest cost. For three years, implementation was targeted to a small number of farms representing less than one-third of the watershed that were contributing the largest amount of sediment and phosphorus. Conservation staff worked with the farms to identify and implement applicable management practices.

The first year of post-implementation water quality monitoring found a 37 percent reduction in phosphorus loading during storm events in comparison to baseline information and monitoring in a paired watershed. With streambank stabilization, silt and muck on the stream beds were reduced and cobble and stone beds were exposed. Biological assessments found improved conditions for fish and aquatic insects. If these positive results continue, the streams in Pleasant Valley will be proposed for removal from Wisconsin’s impaired waters list. More information on this project can be found at http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/wisconsin/howwework/wi-pecatonica-results-fact-sheet.pdfExit.