Q9 Update – Watershed Management Plan Complete

We have reached the end of our planning process and are just about ready to publish the 2022 Lake Monroe Watershed Management Plan!  This 180-page report provides an analysis of our water quality monitoring efforts and lays out a 20-year action plan for improving water quality in Lake Monroe.  Many thanks to all the members of the steering committee and other volunteers who made this project a reality.  Once we have received final approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we will post the full report and data on our watershed plan page

What did we learn?  The top issues facing Lake Monroe are incoming nutrients and sediment that increase the likelihood of harmful algal blooms.  E. coli was also found at elevated levels in streams that flow to Lake Monroe, though samples in the lake were well below state standards.  Potential sources were documented throughout the watershed and include failing septic systems, conventionally tilled cropland, eroded pasture, livestock with access to streams, lack of riparian buffer, eroded forestry sites, streambank erosion, and lakeshore erosion.  Other problems to address in the watershed include trash, flooding, lack of public awareness, invasive plant species, and lack of a centralized effort to protect water quality.  Now that we have a plan, our focus will be on organizing collaborations between all the governing bodies in the watershed and activating community members to get involved.

Huge thanks to the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County as well as the Monroe County Stormwater Board for funding the Lake Monroe Community Action Initiative this year.  Our goal is to inform the local community about the watershed plan and engage their support in implementing our action plan.  Let us know if your organization would benefit from a ten-minute presentation about this important work!  We plan to host two public forums this May as well as a watershed summit for local leaders, social media campaigns about how to protect water quality, and a Lake Monroe watershed tour.

Another component of the initiative is a pilot septic system maintenance cost-share program in the Lake Monroe watershed portion of Monroe County.  This program will help offset the cost of the septic tank pumpout that should be done every three years to keep a septic system in good shape and catch any problems while they are small.  We hope to expand the program into neighboring counties in the future.

This fall we anticipate receiving a second round of funding through the 319 grant program of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.   This grant would pay for a cost-share program subsidizing the installation of best management practices on land throughout the watershed.  Examples include establishing pollinator habitat or trees adjacent to streams, fencing livestock out of streams, planting cover crops, and reforesting floodplains.  The grant will also fund a variety of education and outreach programs including agricultural field days, forestry trainings, septic system maintenance workshops, boat tours, trash cleanups, green boating campaigns, and educational brochures mailed to every resident in the watershed.

We are very excited to put our plan into action.  The planning phase may be over, but the work is just beginning!  As always, please reach out with questions, comments, or suggestions to watershed@friendsoflakemonroe.org.  Thank you!

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