Area counties to receive soil and water grants

COLUMBUS — The two state legislators who sponsored the Clean Lake 2020 Plan announced the first round of grants as next steps in the challenge to reduce harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and State Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, on Wednesday reported that the Ohio Department of Agriculture was prepared to release $1.25 million in grants to the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the Western Lake Erie Basin. A total of 24 counties in the basin will receive funding support before the end of December.

“We have always believed that soil and water conservation districts must be directly involved in helping resolve issues relating to nutrient loading and water management,” Gardner said. “These grants will enhance the mission these organizations have been involved with for years.”

Arndt concurred.

“Our soil and water partners are respected by Lake Erie advocates and farmers alike,” Arndt said. “They are an integral part of the team to support Lake Erie.”

The department plans to release these funds for staffing and programming, based on the percentage of a county located in the basin. A total of 17 counties are wholly in the basin, with another seven counties partially located in the basin.

An additional $2.25 million may be provided to counties on a targeted basis in early 2019. These targeted dollars will be available for SWCDs for specific nutrient load reduction programs including soil testing, nutrient management plan development, manure transformation and manure conversion technologies, enhanced filter strips and water management. The department has indicated it will share additional information on the second round of grants in the coming weeks.

The department is working on funding plans for the Phosphorus Reduction Fund also included in the Clean Lake 2020 Plan. The fund provides up to $20 million for a variety of best management practices to reduce phosphorus loading in the basin. Details on identified programs and strategies may be announced in early 2019.