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State keeping an eye on the Deep River Watershed

The IndianDepartment Environmental Management is monitoring Deep River Portage Burns Watershed.  | IDEM photo

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is monitoring the Deep River Portage Burns Watershed. | IDEM photo

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Updated: January 28, 2014 6:02AM



Monitoring over the past year for the Deep River Portage Burns Watershed will provide data for a four-year watershed management initiative.

And after monitors from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management have completed their official work, it is hoped a corps of volunteers can be recruited to keep an eye on things.

Joe Exl, senior water resource planner at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, said he hopes a volunteer program to help monitor the watershed can be formed to continue tracking environmental quality when IDEM monitors are done.

“We’re hoping to start monitoring sites throughout the watershed, and train individuals on how to track the data,” Exl said. “If you’re someone who likes to go to our beaches, or a paddle or canoe spots fan, you’ll want to have clean water to enjoy.”

The Regional Planning Commission has secured a federal grant of $455,550 over four years to improve the tributaries that covers water bodies like Deep River, Deer Creek, Lake George, Turkey Creek and Burns Ditch.

Combined, that is one of the largest watersheds in Northwest Indiana that flows into the Great Lakes.

The planning commission is responsible for receiving matching dollars, but can count in-kind services like volunteer hours instead of actual cash.

“It’s the largest drainage area into Lake Michigan,” said Exl, “and it empties out into Burns Ditch, one of the busiest new parks with the Portage Lakefront.”

In January, NIRPC will form an advisory committee to help direct efforts to improve the watershed.

Indiana environmental management department began monitoring 35 sites monthly from April to October throughout the 180 square mile watershed that flows into Lake Michigan.

Levels of E. coli, nutrients, sediments and biological factors like fish and macro invertebrate populations were recorded to provide a baseline of data for NIRPC to use in the future.

IDEM water quality monitoring director Cory Fischer said the agency helps watershed organizations by establishing a baseline of data to analyze.

“The project came up when the watershed groups say they want to develop a watershed management plant but may not have the capability to do the monitoring,” Fischer said. “We take it over and do the monitoring for them, so they know where their starting points are on the project.”

IDEM will continue to monitor nine sites that NIRPC had identified until March.

“With their nine sites they are only targeting sub-watersheds, which might have a drainage area of 29 miles,” Fischer said, “but when we go in with the additional sites, you can break out additional stream segments within that sub-watershed to target your study and refine it.”



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