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MACC Receives New Great Lakes Commission Grant
Bidding Farewell to Our Summer Interns
Road-Stream Crossing Inventory Progress
Cultivating Resilience: 2019 Farm Field Day
Peters Creek Restoration
Leaves and Storm Drains
The MACC was recently awarded a $190,000 grant from the Great Lakes Commission through their Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program. This grant will help support implementation of agricultural conservation practices in certain areas of the watershed to reduce phosphorus and sediment pollution in Lake Macatawa. Specifically, the funding will be used to install approximately 3,900 linear feet of grassed waterways and 1,450 acres of cover crops. Combined, these practices will help keep about 3,500 pounds of phosphorus and 5,000 tons of sediment out of Lake Macatawa.
Grassed waterways (pictured at left below) are a conservation practice that are installed in low areas of farm fields where water naturally flows. When water flows over the same pathway again and again, the soil will start to erode and a gully or channel will start forming. If it is caught early and addressed with a practice like a grassed waterway, the erosion can be stopped and in its place a grassed channel can be constructed to provide a stable channel to transport water off the farm field.
Cover crops (pictured at right below) are a non-harvested crop that are planted following the harvest of the cash crop. In some situations, it may be possible to plant the cover crop prior to harvest, such as with an interseeder or by flying the seed on with an airplane. Cover crops protect the soil from erosion after harvest, through the winter and leading up to planting. It is especially critical to have a growing cover on the soil during spring snowmelt and early spring rains to protect the soil from erosion. The cover crop either kills overwinter or is killed by herbicide or another method prior to planting the cash crop. Cover crops can also help improve soil health, scavenge nutrients for the cash crop to use, fight off weeds, and serve as forage for some animals.
The grant funds will cover 75% of the cost to implement the practices. The remaining 25% of the cost will be provided by the producer and Project Clarity, an initiative of the ODC Network. Additional grant activities will include holding an annual field day to see and learn more about conservation practices. The MACC’s Agricultural Technician, Rob Vink, will work with producers to plan and implement these practices. If you have questions about the project or are interested in participating, you can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org or 395-2688.
From Alex: This summer I enjoyed the opportunities I had to improve my understanding and improve my skills in GIS and data management. I particularly enjoyed doing fieldwork like macroinvertebrate collections, Secchi disk readings and dry weather screenings. Another plus was the events we got to attend where we interacted with the community, teaching the importance of watershed management and meeting officials in other related fields and other departments. This internship has opened my eyes to a wider range of environmental issues which has made me even more passionate about pursuing a career in environmental protection.
From Ali: Completing road stream crossings, dry weather screenings, macroinvertebrate collections, and Secchi disk readings offered me the opportunity to learn about the way we can monitor the precious water that surrounds us. On the days it rained and we couldn’t go out into the field, I was able to work on maps and refine my GIS skills. The multiple events, meetings, site visits, etc. that Kelly allowed us to come along for and participate in helped me to better understand the positive role that the MACC serves in the community. I am happy to have had the chance to intern for such a beneficial organization.
The MACC began a new volunteer program in 2016 to collect data about road-stream crossings in the watershed. We know approximately how many there are and that they can be a source of sediment due to erosion. However, we do not know the conditions of them and which should be fixed. Various volunteers and interns have participated in the program over the last four summers and have been able to inventory 158 sites out of approximately 600 total. We’re making great progress, but still have a long way to go!
The data collected during the inventory process includes measurements of the stream, the road and the crossing, as well as a visual assessment of conditions. The data is entered into a database that calculates scores for fish passability and erosion severity. The goal is to identify sites with fish limitations and severe erosion and prioritize those for repair or replacement. The results of the inventory to date are explained below. At this point, we have not completed any repairs or replacements beyond those already scheduled by the road commission or drain office. We hope to prioritize sites and secure funding for additional repairs or replacements over the next several years.
At left: The final erosion severity rating is one of three categories: minor, moderate or severe. Sites rated as severe will be revisited to collect additional information and determine a priority for repair or replacement. At right: Fish passability is calculated as a numeric score with 1 being the best for passage and 0 indicating that most fish would not be able to pass at most stream flows. Sites with a score of 0 will be revisited to determine a priority for repair or replacement.
By Rob Vink, MACC Agricultural Technician
On September 5th over 130 farmers and conservation professionals attended a Cultivating Resilience Farm Field Day at Smallegan Farms in Zeeland Township. The Farm Field Day was planned in partnership with Allegan and Ottawa Conservation Districts, Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and the MACC. Fred Yoder was the keynote speaker and spoke to attendees on the cost-benefit of cover crops. Mr. Yoder finished out the afternoon session with a talk on climate smart agriculture.
Attendees rotated through a series of stations where speakers discussed the benefits of no-till and cover crops, explored the world of soil health, and learned what weeds may be telling us about soil fertility.
Joe Scrimger from the Battle Creek area delivered thought provoking insights on what the prevalence of weeds can tell us about the fertility of the soil. Joe has gained experience from his time as a consultant in Northern Michigan and also growing up on a farm in Lapeer county.
Christina Curell is the statewide cover crop and soil health expert with Michigan State University Extension. Christina provided several soil health demonstrations showing the difference between no-till soils and soils that receive heavy tillage. Christina capped off the event with a rainfall simulation showing how several different soils react during a rainfall event.
Jerry Grigar is the NRCS state agronomist in Michigan. Jerry is a huge proponent and supporter of no-till farming and provided an energetic and passionate talk to the attendees. Jerry talked about what has been working on his own farm and addressed issues like soil compaction, the transition to no-till, and how improving soil health can reduce uncertainty during spring planting.
We hope that this field day will continue to be an annual event. Attendance for the first year was higher than anticipated and may be an indicator of what things farmers feel are important issues in their operations. This event would not have been possible with out our great sponsors and a hard working dedicated planning committee. Event sponsors included: CHS, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Byron Seeds, Ottawa County Farm Bureau, Allegan County Farm Bureau, GreenStone Farm Credit Services, and Interface H2O.
By Dan Callam, Outdoor Discovery Center Network
While rivers naturally move around within their floodplains over the course of hundreds or thousands of years, many streams in our area move too quickly and erode the nearby streambanks. For many years, one such location has been the mouth of Peters Creek. In many cases, creeks and brooks that once flowed slowly through wetlands and river valleys have been straightened and dug deeper in order to drain the surrounding land. This can result in severe bank erosion, putting tons of sediment into streams and Lake Macatawa every year.
While the ODC Network and the MACC have been implementing thousands of acres worth of best management practices upstream to help manage flows and sediment loading, the ODC recently restored a section of Peters Creek located at our Poppen Woods property, part of the Macatawa Greenway. Stream projects can be difficult to get perfect, so our team worked with several national experts. Crews from North State Environmental in North Carolina, Green Watershed Restoration in Colorado, and Niswander Environmental and 28 Specialties in Michigan completed the earth moving and initial seeding in just under a weeks’ time. Using natural channel design and materials from the site, the team reshaped the channel and added log structures designed to reduce erosion and move sediment naturally through the stream. These structures help absorb energy from stream flows better than rock, which often just transfers the power of the current to an unprotected downstream location.
This project was constructed with funds from Project Clarity and the Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy. As improvements continue to take place around the watershed, we hope more stream projects using these types of design techniques will become more commonplace, hopefully reducing the need for continued maintenance. The MACC and ODC hope we can continue to work with our local drain and water resource commissioners on more naturalized channel projects.
Top left: Peters Creek in 2017 showing typical erosion and bank instability. Top right: an excavator shaping the new streambank. Bottom left: aerial photo of project right after construction. Bottom right: completed project 3 weeks after construction.
If you live in the City of Holland or Zeeland and have curb side leaf pickup, here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare your leaf pile for pickup: