Monday, June 30, 2014

Fish kill in eastern Ohio might be linked to fire at fracking well

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources learned yesterday of the fish kill in Possum Creek in Monroe County, said Jason Fallon, an agency spokesman. Fallon said he did not have details about the extent of the kill. “I can’t confirm if it’s related to the gas-well fire,” he said.

Read rest of story HERE

Friday, June 27, 2014

There’s no better place for a kid than outdoors

by Matt Reese, published in Ohio Country Journal

Rise with the sunshine ready to play,
Then collapse into bed at the end of the day.
Scrapes and bruises, skinned up knees,
Sword fighting with sticks and climbing up trees,
Ride on a horse, spray with the hose,
Giggle at dandelion fuzz up your nose.
Roll pant legs up and through cool puddles wade,
Shut your eyes for a nap in an old oak tree’s shade.
Sandbox castles, kitten scratches,
A few bug bites, poison ivy patches —
So much to see and so much to learn.
Don’t touch that fence and watch the sunburn.
Berry stained fingers and thorn-pricked arms,
Manure on boots, dirt from the barn,
Long hot days of sun, sweat and laughs,
Lead your best lamb, groom your best calf.
Spit watermelon seeds out in the grass,
Enjoy twilight ice cream as lightning bugs flash,
Catch a frog and a fish on a swim in the creek,
Don’t know, and don’t care ‘bout what day of the week.
Why stay inside when it can be so much fun,
To spend summer days ‘neath the clouds and the sun?
Children are a gift and I’m grateful each day,
That I can watch mine grow up this way.
There is a lifetime ahead for office space and AC,
Gadgets, and dress clothes and life’s finery.
So let ‘em get dirty and have ‘em explore,
‘Cause there’s no better place for a kid than outdoors.
What joy to share in the life of a child spent outdoors.

State Tourism Crafting Strategies

If state tourism leaders want to spur their industry, they must find ways to persuade visitors to turn day trips into overnights and get Ohioans to show pride in the state, according to analysts who presented at Ohio's first tourism symposium.  About 100 state agency leaders, business and attraction owners and local tourism board members were given those tips at the TourismOhio symposium, which focused on determining where Ohio's tourism industry stands and devising strategies to improve it.  Development Services Agency Director David Goodman and TourismOhio Director Mary Cusick shared their vision for the future of state tourism with attendees, saying it's been their goal since joining the department to collaborate with stakeholders from across the state to create a comprehensive action plan to bolster the $30-billion-per-year industry.
Ms. Cusick said the state is currently using a two-pronged approach to attract visitors by promoting the state to nonresidents as well as to those who live in Ohio and who may have tourist-worthy activities right in their backyards.  "We know the number one way people come to Ohio is because a friend or family member recommended it to them," Ms. Cusick said in an interview. "We want to build on that pride but we also want to come up with a plan so we have a strong enough message to take it outside our state and encourage people to come to Ohio."

Rick Cain, vice president of Longwoods International, a market research firm, said Ohio scores well as a travel destination among respondents who have visited before. However, there is some work to be done in improving the perception of those who've never been to the state, he said.  An image study showed that many say Ohio's amusement parks, waterparks and child-friendly activities set it apart from other states as a vacation spot, but few of those surveyed rated the state for being an "adventurous" or "unique" get away.  The majority - about 81% - of last year's visitors stayed just for the day, Mr. Cain said, noting that the statistic isn't consistent with most states, which can attribute about 60% of their tourism to day trippers.

That figure is one area where Ohio does not want to lead the pack because 2013 statistics show those who visited Ohio for the day spent an average of $110, while those who stayed the night spent an average of $335, said Chris Pike, director of Tourism Economics. The number of those who stayed one or more nights remained steady from 2012 to 2013.  It's important for the tourism industry to do well because it has a positive impact on the rest of the state and even on those other industries that aren't directly related to tourism, which took in about $38 million in 2013 thanks to spending by visitor-focused companies, Mr. Pike said.  He added that tourism generated about $1.8 billion in state taxes and about $1.2 billion in local taxes in 2013.

"We're Ohioans, so I guess it's in our nature to be humble," Director Goodman told the audience. "It's hard for us to tell people how wonderful we actually are, but we have to start doing that and we're going to support that effort at the Development Services Agency and we're going to give you the bandwidth so you can go out and talk about your individual world-class opportunities for fun and excitement to the rest of the world so they can come and visit and love Ohio exactly the way that we do."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ohio Ranked Last In Beach Water Quality

Ohio beaches flunked water quality tests last year more often than any of the other 30 states with ocean or lakefront coats, according to a report issued Wednesday.  Thirty-five percent of the water quality tests taken from Ohio's 60 monitored beaches in 2013 exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's swimming safety threshold for bacteria, the Natural Resources Defense Council report said.  By comparison, only 13% of test samples from all the beaches in the Great Lakes region exceeded the U.S. EPA's Beach Action Value, the group said. Nationally, 10% of all water quality samples collected from nearly 3,500 coastal and Great Lakes beaches in the country failed to meet the standard.  The NRDC report(  also found a significant increase in the percent of water quality samples from Ohio beaches exceeding pollution standards of 190 E. coli bacteria cfu per 100 ml of water.  Although the U.S. EPA adopted a more restrictive threshold last year, 32% of the 2103 samples were still in excess of the previous 235 cfu/100 ml standard. In 2012, 20% exceeded that level, 22% in both 2011 and 2010, and 15% in 2009. 
Ohio beaches with the worst water quality test failure rates in 2013 were: Lakeview Beach in Lorain County (76%); Bay View West in Erie County (70%); Whites Landing in Erie County (62%); Edgecliff Beach in Cuyahoga County (62%); Clarkwood Beach in Cuyahoga County (61%); and Sims Beach in Cuyahoga County (61%).
Steve Fleischli, director of water program at NRDC, said the primary source of beach water pollution is storm water runoff, which often contains raw sewage.  "There can be hidden dangers lurking in many of our waterways, in the form of bacteria, and viruses that can cause a grim inventory of illnesses, like dysentery, hepatitis, stomach flu, infections and rashes," he said during a conference call with reporters.  Children and the elderly are more susceptible to diseases spread through polluted beach water, he said. "Too many of America's beaches remain sick and they can pass on their illnesses to our families."  The U.S. EPA estimates that more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated storm water enter the country's surface water each year, including hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater that gets released through combined sewer overflows, Mr. Fleischli said.
Ohio beaches' poor water quality is likely because Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, which as a closed system doesn't flush out pollutants as quickly as the oceanfront coasts, he said.  Moreover, Ohio has a high density population and a lot of developed areas that still use antiquated sewage systems that create a lot of "urban slobber," he said.
The NRDC's Karen Hobbs said the increase in Ohio's failing water quality tests could be attributed partially to more extreme precipitation events that stem from climate change.  Furthermore, Ohio has lost 90% of its wetlands, which help filter out pollutants before they run into waterways, she said.  The NRDC report said a new federal rule designed to protect streams and wetlands could help stem the flow of wastewater that pollutes beaches.  The group also called on local communities to adopt "green infrastructure," things like green roofs, rain barrels, porous pavement that help divert storm water runoff before it enters the sewer system.

Another East Central Ohio Forestry Assoc. Field Day

Dan Ogonek, ECOFA member and owner of Ogonek Custom Hardwoods, will host a field day at his business on Sat. June 28 at 10 AM.  Dan will demonstrate sawmilling and timber framing techniques.  Please wear sturdy boots for this field day as it could be messy.  Bring a sack lunch or, optionally, small groups may adjourn to area restaurants after the tour.

Coffee, water and donuts are being provided.

The field day location is 2461 25th St SW, Akron, OH 44314.  Although it is adjacent to SR 224, it is only accessible via either W Waterloo Road from the S or Wilbeth Boulevard from the N to 27th St SW to Marmax Ave.  If you get lost call Dan on his cell phone (330-388-6829).  Dan plans to have "Forestry Field Day" signs posted at the Waterloo/27th St. intersection, the Wilbeth/27th St. intersection and the 27th/Marmax intersection.

Warning:  Dan's experience is that many GPS devices will not provide correct information.  Google Maps' directions are correct with the above address, though, so please validate your GPS' directions before departing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Importance of Pollinators Program in Dover

DOVER, OHIO - The public is invited to a free program at the Norma Johnson Conservation Center near Dover on July 2.  At 6:30 PM, Denise Ellsworth, Director of Honey Bee and Native Pollinator Education at OSU Extension, will lead a hike to collect and examine native and non-native insects and wildflowers in the field at the end of Conservation Drive.  At 8 PM, Denise will give a program on the importance of pollinators in the nearby Brandywine Center, 4950 Old Route 39 NW, Dover.  The event will be held rain-or-shine and is sponsored by the East Central Ohio Forestry Association.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Report Finds Ohio's Waterways Among Most Polluted In Nation

Report Finds Ohio's Waterways Among Most Polluted In Nation, Urges Action To Reduce Toxic Dumping
Multiple Ohio waterways are counted among the most toxic in the nation, an Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center study released Thursday reported.  Based on toxic release data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, the report details how industrial pollution negatively affects waterways.  Industrial facilities self-reported dumping more than 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals into American waterways in 2012, according to EPA data, making them responsible or polluting more than 17,000 miles of rivers and about 210,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide, researchers said.
The Ohio River region is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country, the findings show. Among the most highly toxic watershed portions are the Muskingum River, with more than 4 million pounds of pollution being dumped into it in 2012 and the Laughery River, with more than 3 million pounds of toxic materials being dumped into it in 2012.

The 71-page report, authored by Jeff Inglis and Tony Dutzik with the Frontier Group and John Rumpler with Environment America Research & Policy Center, urges the restoration of Clean Water Act protections and a strengthening of enforcement of its provisions.  The authors suggest that the Obama Administration clarify the act to include headwater streams, intermittent waterways and isolated wetlands, while state and local leaders should require that the worst chemicals be phased out and safer alternatives to toxic chemicals be used when possible.  Attention should also be given to expanding the understanding of toxic chemicals, the authors said. This could be done by informing the public about storing toxic chemicals and requiring the oil and gas industry to report releases of fracking fluid and drilling waste, which are considered toxic.  "Much remains unknown about toxic releases from fracking facilities, including the degree to which these facilities release toxic substances to surface waters," the authors wrote. "We do know, though, that an independent analysis of data submitted by fracking operators to FracFocus revealed that one-third of all fracking projects reported using at least one cancer-causing chemical."  "Expanding TRI to include oil and gas extraction will enable the public to gain a clearer picture of the environmental and public health impacts of fracking," they continued.

Adding to an ongoing concern among environmental groups that the Kasich administration planned to implement fracking in state parks, Ohio Food & Water Watch on Thursday released documents showing that the possibility was being considered much longer than originally thought. An August 2012 memo released earlier this year revealed plans to drill on two state park lands. The plan was never acted on and Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said there was no further discussion on it.  However, Ohio Food & Water Watch have obtained memos from September and November 2012 that detail a plan to unveil the idea to the public and review a meeting between administration and ODNR officials, during which fracking in state parks was a focus.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

State Envirothon Competition

Guernsey County hosted the State Envirothon competition this year. It was held
at Salt Fork State Park.  High School teams from all over Ohio compete at the local level,
 and the winners come to the state competition.  The winner at the state level will go
on to compete at the national level.  Besides the prestige, students on the teams
win scholarships.  Teams are tested on 5 topics:  Water, Soils, Forestry, Wildlife,
and current environmental issues.  This year, the issue was sustainable agriculture.

The forestry station.

The soil pit

The water station

GSWCD Wildlife/Forestry Specialist Travis Smith (left)

GSWCD Technician Jason Tyrell (left)

Snakes and salamanders and kids, oh my!

Nicole Hafer is the education wildlife specialist for the Muskingum SWCD

Last week was the beginning of another great summer of the Muskingum Soil and Water Conservation District’s Kids Conservation Camp. This is the 10th year the district has hosted this bi-weekly camp, which is held every Monday and Wednesday for 11 weeks.

Conservation Camp is without a doubt my favorite part of my job. I have several high school students in the program that have been with me for the entire 10 years I have run the camp. They also serve as positive role models for younger campers. One of the things I love about this program is that it allows kids to really look at nature on their level. We spend hours in the stream and hiking in the woods in search of all the amazing things hiding beneath our feet.

When you spend as much time outside with kids as I do, you learn some interesting things about them, including what they are afraid of. As a person terrified by spiders of any size, I can respect their fears. The really cool thing with kids, is that they are young enough to not have formed a permanent impression of certain animals in their minds, so these fears can be overcome. Nothing says “come touch a snake” more than one of your fellow campers holding it; however, that said, sometimes it takes a bit more persuasion to overcome a fear than simply peer pressure. I experienced this first hand on our first day of camp.

To set the scene, I asked the older boys to get a shovel and wheel barrow from the maintenance shop at Blue Rock so we could begin the site prep for our rain garden. They returned a few minutes, without the requested tools, holding a young black rat snake they found on the road. The camper holding the snake has been in the program for many years. The snake had bitten him and he was bleeding a little. When I asked him about the bite, he informed me he made sure it wasn’t poisonous before he picked it up. Clearly, I’d taught him something.

He was immediately surrounded by other campers who wanted to touch the snake and a few brave souls willing to risk a bite to hold it (they have also been in the program several years). Two new little girls, age 8 and 9, stated they were afraid of snakes and didn’t want to touch it. One of the other campers inquired why they were afraid of them, the girls replied that they were slimy and their parents hated snakes. Several of the older girls explained that the snake bit the camper because it was afraid, that they weren’t slimy. Both girls then decided to pet the snake, they asked a ton of questions about the snakes we find at camp, and after a few minutes thought snakes were cool, too. When we headed to the stream, the scene was repeated, minus the bite, with several salamanders. By the end of the day, one of the girls was even carrying the snake in the container and walked up with the boys to release it. Score one for reptile conservation.

The moral of the story is not that parents are terrible for making their kids afraid of things; I’m ashamed to admit both my daughters also are terrified of spiders, but to emphasize the importance of getting kids outside. If those girls never had a positive experience with snakes, they would grow up to believe snakes were slimy, scary creatures. Slimy, scary creatures don’t make people want to protect them or their habitat. To get someone to care about another living thing, they often need to experience it up close and personal.Take your kids outside. It’s just outside your back door, totally free, and a great way to discover something amazing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

NACD Comments on EPA Interpretive Rule on Clean Water Act Permitting

WASHINGTON, DC—June 13, 2014—The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) submitted comments today on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Interpretive Rule (IR) Regarding Applicability of the Exemption from Permitting under section 404(f)(I)(A) of the Clean Water Act.

"Districts have more than 75 years of experience in working on locally-led clean water efforts in close partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) across the nation," said NACD President Earl Garber. "Because of this expertise and national perspective, we are well positioned to provide comments regarding the Interpretive Rule and the role of NRCS within the process."

NACD's comments address three main issue areas within the IR:  1) the importance that NRCS is not placed in a compliance or regulatory role; 2) "normal farming, silviculture, and ranching" activities are exempted from permitting; and 3) producers are not required to notify regulatory agencies nor NRCS when they self-implement practices.

NACD appreciates that nothing in the IR changes the roles or responsibilities of NRCS, EPA or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). However, NACD has concerns about the way in which NRCS will be required to respond to questions from the USACE or courts. It is extremely important that NRCS maintain its role and reputation as a "non-regulatory" body in the agricultural community.

NACD is pleased that the IR acknowledges the water quality benefits resulting from voluntary conservation practices by exempting from permitting certain practices that fall under the statute of "normal farming, silviculture, and ranching" activities.  However, we recognize that these practices are in addition to other practices that also fall under this statutory provision of "normal." There will be many Best Management Practices (BMPs) and other practices with benefits to water quality and quantity that are not currently identified on the list; for this reason, we look forward to reviewing the list at least annually to ensure it fully reflects the breadth of conservation practices being implemented across the country.

Finally, NACD is supportive that the IR will not require producers to notify regulatory agencies nor NRCS when they self-implement practices. Reducing uncertainty and the administrative burdens of applying for permits will increase conservation application. Voluntary conservation programs do not include sufficient resources to allow follow-up at a regulatory scope and scale—in order to determine that the practice is implemented in conformance with [listed] NRCS technical standards— at every site where a practice is installed.

"Conservation planning is extremely important, because what we invest in our water resources today will reduce our need for clean-up efforts in the future," said Garber. "We promote voluntary conservation.  While we prefer cooperators implement conservation practices under cooperator contracts according to NRCS standards, they are not required to for CWA purposes."

NACD's comments on the IR are based on input from its network of 3,000 conservation districts across the nation. We look forward to continuing to gather additional member input in order to provide comments on the jurisdictional question of the definition of waters of the U.S., pursuant to EPA's Proposed Rule.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The regularly scheduled monthly board meeting for the Guernsey SWCD is Monday, June 9th at 7:30PM.  These meetings are open to the public.  Should you wish to speak to the board, please call ahead to be put on the agenda.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What is a Watershed?

Raise your hand if you live in a watershed! Do you all have your hands raised?
Because we all live in a watershed.
No matter whether you live in the city or the country, our land is sloping toward the sea. This means that water is always trying to flow downhill to the sea. (Gravity at work!) The next time you are standing next to a stream, think about what’s upstream. Has this water flowed past another neighborhood
like yours?  A forest?  A farm?

When water falls as rain or snow, it quickly runs together into small streams. Eventually these small streams flow into each other and form rivers. Rivers, in turn, meet to form larger rivers. From an airplane you can easily see how this stream network is organized. It’s kind of like a tree lying on its side with many branches attached to a main trunk.

Pick out any location in any stream and all the land that contributes water up to that point is called
its drainage basin or watershed. The watershed of a small stream—one you can cross wearing only rubber boots—might be only a couple of acres in size. On the other hand, if you need fishing waders to get across, the stream is probably draining a square mile or more of land. If scuba gear is required, you know the stream has a large drainage area. Knowing where your water comes from is important, especially if any problems occur upstream. You probably would not want to head out to your favorite swimming hole if that morning a gasoline truck spilled some of its load upstream.
Hydrologists (scientists who study the movement of water) have devised a system for classifying the
position of streams in a watershed. The uppermost channels with no tributaries are designated first-order streams. A second-order stream is formed when two first-order streams meet. Third-order streams are created when two second-order streams join, and so on. A network is formed by all the streams in the watershed, and people can easily see how they connect.
Like nesting dolls, small watersheds are part of larger watersheds, which in turn are part of even larger
watersheds. To help keep everything organized, the U.S. Geological Survey developed a system to keep track of all the different scales of watersheds.

There are four basic sizes of watersheds in their system. The largest are known as the major river basins and includes the Ohio River Basin. The smallest watersheds defined in the USGS watershed classification system are called catalog units.

Generally, when people ask you about your watershed, they are focusing on the catalog unit-size watershed. Most catalog units are named after the major river that flows through them. Most of Guernsey County falls in the Wills Creek Watershed.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

National Dam Safety Awareness Day

Ohio Department of Natural Resources -- Ahead of National Dam Safety Awareness Day, ODNR officials announced that efforts to improve the safety of state-owned dams continue at nine sites throughout the state.  Safety risk-reduction construction projects are underway at Lake Alma, Pike Lake, Pond Lick Lake, Roosevelt Lake, Portage Lakes, Grand Lake St. Marys, Dow Lake, Jefferson Lake and Acton Lake dams, agency officials said. Each site is classified as a "high hazard potential," meaning sudden failure could threaten property or persons downstream - not a reflection of the dam's condition.  Additional dam risk reduction projects, which will focus on correcting deficiencies caused by age, structural design and wear, are expected to take place over the next two years thanks to additional capital project funding that will become available July 1.


The state of Ohio through ODNR owns and maintains 179 dams statewide, which include 56 
Class I, high-hazard dams. ODNR also regulates more than 1,500 publicly and privately-owned 
dams through its Ohio Dam Safety Program. 

The majority of these dams are either privately-owned (68 percent) or are owned by local 
governments (23 percent) and are typically used for water supply, flood control and recreation. 
There are approximately 30 federally-owned dams in Ohio that are owned, operated and 
regulated by the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). 

The goal of the Ohio Dam Safety Program is to enhance public safety by ensuring that dams do 
not present unacceptable risks to people, property and the environment. One step toward 
meeting this goal is performing periodic dam safety inspections across Ohio. These certified 
inspections may result in program officials directing dam owners, including the state of Ohio, to 
implement needed repairs or other risk-reduction measures and prepare for dam emergencies. 

Existing and newly approved state capital appropriations earmarked specifically for dam risk- 
reduction projects statewide include: 

 Assessments of existing conditions at state-owned dams. 
 Design and construction to reduce risk and bring state-owned dams into compliance 
with dam safety standards. 
 Improving dam emergency response preparedness by ensuring Emergency Action Plans are updated. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

2014 Timber Tour at Moore Memorial Woods

Wildlife/Forestry specialist Travis Smith led an hour long hike through Moore Woods, showing some of the various stands.  There is an area that was clear cut 25-30 years ago where GSWCD staff and ODNR service forester have been doing crop tree release demonstrations and taking measurements on selected trees.  
There is another area that was clear cut in the recent harvest, and people were interested to see how quickly the oaks are regenerating in that area.  They also took a look at the reclaimed logging roads to see how reseeding and adding in water bars help to control erosion.
Although it threatened storms all afternoon, they went north of the woods, and the hike and presentations in the pavilion were dry and  thankfully lightning free.  
After the hike, the group came back to the pavilion and 4 experts in their fields spoke to the crowd and answered questions.  In the rear in bright blue shirt is Jim McKinney, who has been contracted by the district to do TSI - timber stand improvement work in the woods.  Before the harvest, he cut many grapevines that were growing in the trees, breaking out branches and making it dangerous for the loggers to cut trees.  He also cut and treated the few Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven) trees that are popping up in the woods.  These trees are an invasive species, and can take over large areas of the woods if given a chance.  They are a fast growing, soft wood tree that has little or no timber value.   The female trees produce large amounts of seeds, blanketing an area with seedlings that quickly outgrow and choke out native trees that are valuable for timber and for wildlife mast, such as oaks.

Standing in the light colored hat is Jeremy Scherf, ODNR Service Forester for Guernsey(and surrounding) counties.  Jeremy provided information on how he works with landowners to help them manage their woods.  His goal is to help form a plan for what you want from your woods - timber, wildlife habitat, recreation, etc., and then will work with you to reach those goals.

Seated in the front is Koral Clum, and beside her in the white shirt is her husband, Randy.  The Clums are retired ODNR Service Foresters, and now have a business in forestry consulting.  The Clums were hired by the board of the GSWCD to mark the trees for harvest, figure board feet and put out the trees for bids, and then managed the sale and oversee the subsequent harvest of the trees.  Koral explained to the crowd how a forestry consultant works, and the benefits they provide.   
The crowd listening as Koral Clum speaks.