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FORT WAYNE, IN -- The development of the Upper Maumee River Watershed Management Plan was a collaboration between the Allen County Indiana Soil and Water Conservation District and Defiance County Ohio Soil and Water Conservation District when both organizations received federal funding in 2012 to compile a comprehensive management plan for the Upper Maumee River Watershed.  These organizations were aided by a project Steering Committee made up of members from the Upper Maumee River Watershed Partnership and local stakeholders. The collaborating agencies and stakeholders were motivated to create the Watershed Management Plan because the Maumee River has been identified as the largest contributor of sediment and nutrients to Lake Erie and is responsible, in part, for the massive algal blooms that form in Lake Erie. Annual harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie can cause catastrophic deaths of aquatic life, seriously impact Toledo’s drinking water, and have a major impact on the local economy surrounding Lake Erie.

A comprehensive watershed management plan (WMP) is one way to determine where the problems effecting 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 research and evaluation of the watershed, the Steering Committee determined the sources of water quality impacts and established goals and actions to address the 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 and illicit a willingness to change behaviors to have a positive impact on water quality.

The WMP identifies areas to focus conservation efforts. These are: urban land uses and combined sewer overflows, livestock with access to open water and potential manure runoff, failing septic systems, riparian buffers and streambank erosion, and areas that contribute high phosphorus and sediment loads that degrade water quality.

The goals set by the Steering Committee are ambitious; therefore the steering committee determined objectives to help reach the goals.  Each objective has milestones to reach within a certain timeframe to determine the progress made toward achieving each of the goals. The Action Registers (pages 318-349) outline the management measures that will need to be implemented in order to reach the goals set for this project.  These include hiring personnel and acquiring funding, providing education and outreach, acquiring necessary partnerships, and developing and promoting a cost-share program.

The Plan can be utilized by other organizations within the Upper Maumee River Watershed including the Upper Maumee Watershed Partnership, Allen, DeKalb, Defiance, and Paulding County SWCDs, The Nature Conservancy’s Western Lake Erie Basin Project, County Drainage Boards, Surveyors and Engineers, City and County Planning Departments, Save Maumee and other organizations concerned about the water quality of the Upper Maumee River Watershed.

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.  These changes in the Upper Maumee River Watershed will continued to have an enormous impact on the Western Lake Erie Basin.   As the watershed continues to change so must the actions taken to maintain and/or improve the integrity of the water quality. The Upper Maumee River Watershed Management Plan is considered a ‘living document’ and should be updated, at a minimum, every five years.

The Watershed Management Plan is available on the Upper Maumee Watershed Partnership’s website: www.uppermaumeewatershed.com and at the Allen County/Defiance County Soil and Water Conservation District offices.

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