From a press release issued by the Office of the Governor of Ohio:

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown today announced the availability of $1 million for producers in the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed to apply conservation measures that will benefit water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys.  The funding will be provided to agricultural producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 

"Grand Lake St. Marys is a key to the economic engine of this region.  We are committed to Grand Lake St. Marys’ recovery so tourists can return which will provide a big boost to area businesses," Strickland said.  "I’m thankful for Secretary Vilsack’s leadership and for his quick response to our requests for assistance in restoring the lake.  I also want to thank Senator Brown for his persistent efforts to secure these cleanup funds and ensuring the lake is a priority of the federal government."

In the past two years, $2.5 million has been allocated through EQIP for producers in the watershed to implement conservation measures that reduce soil erosion and the amount of nutrients potentially entering waterways.  Governor Strickland and Senator Brown have fought to secure funding for three years to improve the water quality at Grand Lake St. Marys, which encompasses 59,160 acres across Mercer and Auglaize counties. Not only is it a popular recreational lake, but Grand Lake St. Marys serves as a community drinking water resource.

"The health of Grand Lake St. Marys is at risk and today’s announcement of cleanup funds is welcome news for western Ohio.  These new federal dollars will build upon our long-term strategy of reducing runoff and improving the water quality," Brown said. "Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans rely upon Grand Lake St Marys for recreation, for drinking water, and for their jobs–its cleanup is a priority and I will continue to work with Secretary Vilsack and Governor Strickland until the job is done."

"Our nation’s prosperity–and particularly the prosperity of our rural communities –is closely linked to the health of our lands and natural resources," said Vilsack.  "The conservation measures supported by the funding announced today, including filter strips, manure management, and cover crops, will help sediment and nutrients stay on the land, improving water and soil quality for communities throughout the area."

On July 2, Governor Strickland sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting economic and environmental assistance for the Grand Lake St. Marys area.

This special EQIP sign-up will focus on providing winter cover on agricultural land receiving manure in the fall of 2010 and also for land with low crop residue to reduce soil erosion.  The NRCS field offices in Mercer and Auglaize Counties will be taking applications immediately and continue taking applications until the funding is exhausted. 

In addition to the EQIP funds for producers, a second monitoring station will be placed in the watershed.  Data collected from the two stations in the watershed will provide benchmark data and track long-term improvements resulting from the improved conservation measures being implemented by producers. 

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