In 2012, the St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative was awarded a Clean Water Act grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to create a watershed management plan for the Upper St. Joseph River watershed. The St. Joseph River, a major tributary to the Maumee River which feeds into Lake Erie, is over 86 miles long and is the drinking water source for more than 250,000 residents of the Fort Wayne, Indiana area. The Upper St. Joseph River Watershed is where the headwaters of the St. Joseph River are located.
A comprehensive watershed management plan is one way to determine where the problems effecting surface water quality are in a watershed and how to fix those problems. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management defines a WMP as “a strategy and a work plan for achieving water resource goals that provides assessment and management information for a geographically defined watershed.”
After two and a half years of careful and methodical evaluation of the watershed, the steering committee made up of local stakeholders in the Upper St. Joseph River watershed, determined goals and actions to address concerns and problems. The resulting Watershed Management Plan is full of information regarding common land uses and practices, as well as historic and present day water quality issues. It can be used to teach stakeholders about the extent of water quality problems within the watershed, as well as the watershed’s contribution to the algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
The Watershed Management Plan will hopefully illicit concern as well as a willingness to change behaviors to have a positive impact on water quality. It is intended to be adopted and implemented by government, environmental groups, businesses, and landowners.
A watershed is continually changing as land uses change, towns begin to expand, new businesses organize in the area, farmland is converted to other uses, or wetlands are drained or moved to accommodate development or farming. As the watershed continues to change, so must the actions taken to maintain and/or improve the integrity of the water quality. The Upper St. Joseph River Watershed Management Plan is considered a ‘living document’ and will be updated by the SJRWI, or its partners, at a minimum, every five years.
The watershed management plan is available on the St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative’s website: www.sjrwi.org, and at the Allen County SWCD office.