The Fayette Soil & Water Conservation District held its 71st-annual meeting and supervisor election at the Fayette County Demonstration Farm on Tuesday. This event was held jointly with Fayette County Farm Bureau.
A public election took place to fill two seats as supervisor for a three-year term commencing on Jan. 1, 2019. Incumbents Fred Melvin and Gary Reiterman were challenged by Rick Garrison and Jared Persinger. Residents and owners or renters of land in Fayette County had the opportunity to vote in this election since July 25. A representative of the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission was on hand to oversee the election.
Melvin and Reiterman won re-election to the board.
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels was on hand to recognize the Hedges Farm as an Ohio Bicentennial Farm. In 1815, founder James Stewart acquired 400 acres of land in the southeast corner of Paint Township. Eight generations removed from the founder, 321.33 of those acres remain in the family with the current owners, Nancy Robinson, Jackson Hedges, Frank Hedges, Joan Gale and Susan Kirk.
Supervisor Jim Garland presented The “Cooperator of the Year” award to David and Dennis McCoppin.
“This award in SWCD eyes is for those who practice conservation and are good stewards. The McCoppin brothers have put in several cost shared grassed waterways. Dennis does the spraying. When he sees weeds that escape he doesn’t go spray unless it is overwhelming. Instead, he walks with a backpack sprayer in standing crops to spot spray. He does the same in fence rows. He is very conscientious to not put on any extra chemicals. They are good farmers who are trying to take care of the earth,” said the nomination for the Cooperator award.
Garland was recognized for his 20 years of service on the board of supervisors of the district. Garland’s first three-year term as supervisor began Jan. 1, 1999. He has since been re-elected six times. Garland will be running for a seat on the Board of Fayette County Commissioners during this November’s general election.
Fayette SWCD Director Chet Murphy briefly spoke on a few of the programs the district offers and thanked the agencies that partner with the district in order to make these programs possible. One partnership is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) for the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI). The MRBI is intended to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing to the Gulf of Mexico that cause the Dead Zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 2017, this Dead Zone was the largest ever recorded since mapping began in 1985, about the size of New Jersey. This year, it is forecasted to be smaller, but still about the size of Connecticut.
The local MRBI encompasses 10 sub-watersheds of Paint Creek across six counties with the majority in Fayette County. Through this initiative, $1.2 million in cost share has been obligated to install Best Management Practices (BMP) over the last three years. One of these BMPs is a Denitrifying Bioreactor. The district just completed the design for the first one of these in the county. See NRCS District Conservationist Josh Wilt for more information about cost-shared BMPs.
Ohio has experienced a loss of over seven million acres of farmland since 1950. This is an area roughly equivalent to 23 Ohio counties. The Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program seeks to protect farmland through purchases of agricultural easements. An agricultural easement is a voluntary and legally-binding restriction placed on a farm. The easement limits the use of the land to predominantly agricultural activity. The land remains under private ownership and management, and stays on the tax rolls under CAUV.
Since 2015, the district has or is in the process of protecting 916 acres of Fayette County farmland through purchases of agricultural easements. The Clean Ohio Fund has provided almost $1.4 million for these purchases.
The next application period for the Farmland Preservation Program begins in January 2019, but it is not too early to begin making plans. For more information, please call the FSWCD office.
Replacing failed Home Sewage Treatment Systems (HSTS), commonly called septic systems, has been an ongoing program of the district in partnership with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Fayette County Public Health. Untreated sewage from failed systems eventually flows into the surface waters of the county. There it contributes to the nutrient and coliform bacteria loads that are major causes of impairment in local streams.
Since 2009, the district has administered several programs to help homeowners repair or replace their failed septic systems. To date, 44 systems have been replaced using $498,000 of state and federal cost share funding. These systems treat almost 5.5 million gallons of sewage per year. The district has been awarded another $200,000 from the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund to continue the program through 2019 and will be applying for an additional $150,000 for 2020.
The district will again partner with Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Wildlife for the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative. The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative’s primary focus is to educate the public and to assist in efforts to create habitat for monarch butterflies. Monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweeds. The district is participating in a Statewide Milkweed Pod Collection. The public is encouraged to collect mature milkweed pods during September and October. These pods can be dropped off at the district office. The pods will then be transported to a processor where the seeds will be separated and planted to produce seedlings for new pollinator plots.
Natural Resource Specialist Brigitte Hisey gave a summary of some of the district’s new education programs. One such program is geocaching. Geocaching is an outdoor recreational and educational activity. Participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device to seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches,” at specific locations marked by GPS coordinates. Geocaches have been placed throughout Fayette County to highlight the area’s natural resources. For more information about Geocaching or to suggest a new program, contact Hisey at the FSWCD office.
Murphy thanked the county commissioners. “None of these programs would be possible without the support of the Board of Fayette County Commissioners who provide a local contribution to fund the district’s operations. The state of Ohio also provides a match on a percentage of this contribution.”
Murphy closed by thanking all those individuals and groups who work with the district to protect and improve the natural resources of Fayette County.
For more information on any program offered by Fayette Soil & Water Conservation District, call 740-636-0279. The District office is located in the Fayette Agricultural Center, 1415 US 22 SW, Suite 500, Washington Court House.