NORTH WEBSTER — (EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part article on The Watershed Foundation’s 20th anniversary.)
A battle about installing sewers around Tippecanoe Lake 20 years ago was the start of The Watershed Foundation. Since then TWF has focused on water quality problems and solutions in a watershed that is 246 square miles, with more than 60 lakes and 15 lake associations. The majority of the watershed is agricultural, at 75 percent.
The great Lake Tippecanoe sewer battle in 1996-97 caused a division between the Tippecanoe Lake Association. One association was in favor of sewers. The other against. A 1996 watershed diagnostic study recommended a sewer system around the lake. But it also said the 113 square mile watershed was additionally contributing to the pollution of the lake.
Visionaries joined forces and formed the Tippecanoe Environmental Lake and Watershed Foundation. The TELWF was established in 1997 from the divided members of Lake Tippecanoe Property Owners Association to focus on the restoration and preservation efforts of the Upper Tippecanoe Watershed, located in parts of Kosciusko, Whitley and Noble counties. This organization focused solely on the water quality within the watershed.
Its mission: “promote the understanding and management of our lakes and watershed, fostering their restoration and preservation for today and for the future.”
This was an all volunteer organization with its projects focusing around Tippecanoe Lake. Later it shortened its name to the Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation. At that time the foundation focused on headwaters of the Tippecanoe River watershed. After adding the lower Tippecanoe Watershed area the name was changed again in 2016 to The Watershed Foundation.
A TELWF 2002 annual report stated it completed a 175 plus page watershed management plan that year. That plan set the direction and was the first step to protecting the water for generations to come.
Early projects included dredging of inlets on Tippy. During a six-month period approximately 21,626 cubic yards of sediments were removed. The construction of Palmer wetland took place, restoring and enhancing a three-acre drained wetland. Other projects included wildlife restoration in the Grassy Creek Watershed, planting 2,400 trees and re-establishing a wetland area; the Miller Farm Project with a water and sediment control basins to prevent surface erosion.
Project completed prior to 2002 included Indian Creek detention basins, Hanna B. Walker/Henwood Creek restoration; Kuhn Ditch/Warner historical farm restoration and Cormany Farms buffer projects. There were also projects undertaken in partnership with lake associations. At Crooked Lake five sediment retention basins were installed in the headwater; the Barbee Lakes identified four water improvement projects to reduce sediment and nutrients from Putney Ditch; and the Webster Lake Drain study, which found 200 acres of residential and commercial developed land runoff draining into 18 storm drain networks and flowing into Webster Lake.
Lynn Stevens was the first executive director. She was followed by Lyn Crighton, in 1997, who is the current executive director.
Today, TWF’s mission is “protecting and improving water quality in the lakes and streams of the Upper Tippecanoe River Watershed.” TWF has completed more than 300 water quality improvement projects and programs. Most of the projects have been in what is referred to as the headwaters of the Tippecanoe River Watershed, the original area of concentration.
Several years ago, the Warsaw area was added to TWF doubling the foundation’s geographical area of focus.