Fish in some parts of the watershed are also contaminated with other chemicals.
The data in the study isn’t perfect, Tittelfitz admitted, but it suggests the fertilizer chemicals are normally below the level at which the state considers it a pollutant, but during storms, a substantial amount is dumped into waterways.
And that’s where the study comes in — its whole purpose was to figure out how best to filter out those chemicals before they make it into the creeks.
In the watershed management plan developed as part of the study, the study’s steering committee indicated its goal is to reduce nitrates and phosphorus flowing into the watershed by 76 percent in the next 50 years. The shorter-term goal is to reduce nitrates flowing in, especially during storms, by 36 percent and reduce phosphorus by 7 percent by 2019.
The management plan targets soil erosion, too, aiming to reduce it by 13 percent by 2019 and ending with an 85 percent reduction goal in the next half-century.
It’s to be accomplished in part by encouraging farmers to plant more cover crops and increase their use of nutrient and pest management practices.
A cost-sharing program still in development will put $150,000 in front of farmers willing to foot part of the bill for the conservation practices.
“We are hoping that we can have it approved by mid-April and then have it implemented as soon as possible,” Tittelfitz said.
The funds, part of the $457,000 grant the organization secured in 2012 for the watershed project, may cover up to 75 percent of the cost of a conservation-oriented practice like cover crops, but the exact proportion is still under consideration.
Tittelfitz expects the cost-sharing program to fund cover crops, conservation tillage, field borders and filter strips, among other conservation practices. Cover crops and conservation tillage help control erosion while field borders and filter strips can filter runoff.