Watershed Planning in Butler County
Watersheds are considered an area of land that drains into a common body of water. They can be as small as your property draining into a ditch or as large as the Ohio River basin. No matter the size, we all live, play, and work in a watershed and should realize the impact we can have on the water quality downstream based on our activities. We all live downstream from others.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in charge regulating certain discharges, polluted runoff, and physical alterations to jurisdictional waterways, also known as waters of the United States. Point sources of pollution, such as waste water treatment plants or industrial operations which have a single point of discharge, are an obvious regulated discharge. Lesser known regulated discharges come from non-point sources of pollution, which is essentially polluted runoff where rain or snow melt flow across surfaces picking up sediment, nutrients or bacteria, carrying these to small streams that eventually flow into larger rivers. These pollutants can be harmful to the fish, bugs, and other wildlife that depend on clean water. Another problem facing our watersheds are physical alterations, where changes are made to a stream channel or stream banks that can cause habitat alternation, hydro-modification (changes to channel shape), and enhanced erosion downstream. Physical alterations can include straightened streams, ditched streams, impervious surfaces, and constructed levees and dams.
Both polluted runoff and physical alterations to our streams and rivers contribute to the overall health of our watersheds. Currently, 17 of the 27 watersheds in Butler County are unhealthy (listed as impaired) and cannot support the aquatic life to its full potential. 16 of the 27 watersheds are impaired in terms of recreation use, where the bacteria levels are too high for safe human contact. Watershed planning is a way to identify the most critical areas with impairments and propose projects to improve the water quality. The Ohio EPA framework for watershed planning is called the Nine-Element Non-Point Source Implementation Strategy (NPS-IS) Plan, developed locally through partnerships between landowners, agencies, organizations and other stakeholders who have an interest in the watershed. The NPS-IS plan is written for a specific watershed and is a living strategic planning document that summarizes causes and sources of impairment, established critical areas, identifies quantifiable objectives to address causes and sources of impairment, and describes projects designed to meet those objectives.
Butler Soil & Water Conservation District is initiating efforts to develop NPS-IS
plans for two watersheds (Acton Lake-Four Mile Creek and Dicks Creek) and is also assisting with one other plan (East Fork Mill Creek) with the Mill Creek Alliance. If you live within one of these watersheds and are interested in providing your input, please let us know. There will be stakeholder meetings forthcoming open to the public.