(Video courtesy Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation)
SYRACUSE — Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation has announced a Wawasee watershed ecological health study, a comprehensive analysis of nutrient and sediment loads. This is a landmark study for the foundation.
Since 1991, WACF has focused on improving water quality with two primary tools: acquisition of critical properties (currently more than 900 acres), and mitigation projects to limit sediment containing harmful nutrients from entering our lakes by stabilizing eroding creek banks and encouraging best farming practices. While WACF has made tremendous progress, it is always seeking to direct the limited resources to priority “hot spots.”
To that end, WACF funded a study by Wayne Stanger (S & L Environmental Group) in late 2017 which resulted in the identification of 29 critical hot spots. All of the recommended projects involve considerable expense, and WACF currently has no scientific way to prioritize them.
In early 2018, the WACF Ecology Committee, led by Beth Morris and Joan Szynal MD, began discussions with Dr. Jerry Sweeten, professor emeritus of environmental studies at Manchester University and president of Ecosystems Connections Institute. During the course of several months, they designed a robust and comprehensive study to create a legacy database that will allow WACF to best allocate resources for future projects and measure long-term results.
To accomplish the goals, Sweeten and his team will place five extremely sophisticated sampling gages, one each at the five inflows (Dillon Creek, Launer Creek, Turkey Creek, Papakeechie outflow and Martin Creek) to Lake Wawasee. Samples will also be taken at the Syracuse Lake outflow of Turkey Creek slightly past the Syracuse dam. The approach is to conduct highly intensive daily sampling every four hours during those months (April-June) when agricultural production is at its greatest and 75 percent of the annually deposited nutrients and sediment are likely entering the watershed.
Samples will be picked up daily and analyzed for phosphorus, nitrogen, suspended sediment, dissolved oxygen and many other attributes. Following this peak period, samples will be taken weekly and also after the first monthly rainfall. This data-rich approach will show statistically what levels of phosphorous and nitrogen (nutrients) and sediment each tributary is contributing to lakes.
The testing will start in the spring of 2019 with more than 2,000 samples analyzed each year. The targeted duration of the project is three years, and actionable data will become available in the first months. This scientific approach will also enhance the ability to attract government partners to participate in the funding of major mitigation projects.
In the watershed, there has never been a study conducted, or even proposed, that is as comprehensive and sophisticated as this landmark WACF study. WACF feels the study is essential to direct its resources (mitigation and land acquisition) to the most urgent problem areas.