Two-Stage Ditch project completed in Tippecanoe County

September 7 field day will highlight benefits and technical details of designing and installing a Two-Stage ditch

August 20, 2012

WINIMAC, IN — There is no such thing as a silver bullet for improving water quality, but an innovative technology recently adopted in Tippecanoe County is helping to make water better in Indiana. This technology – called a Two-Stage ditch –improves drainage function, reduces downstream flooding and bank failure, while also improving aquatic habitat and water quality.

This spring, a Tippecanoe County landowner partnered with the County Surveyor and Drainage Board to complete a Two-Stage ditch. The ditch is a modification of the standard agricultural ditch, incorporating benches on one or both sides of the main channel. The Two-Stage ditch mimics the design of natural stream channels, slowing the peak storm flow of water and reducing bank scouring by adding water storage capacity to the ditch.

The landowner, Brian Buck, funded the installation with financial assistance provided by Cargill Incorporated Lafayette Indiana, a grant the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), as well as contributions from the Tippecanoe County Soil and Water District, Tippecanoe County Drainage Board, Wabash River Enhancement Corporation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Indiana Smallmouth Alliance. The ditch project was completed by Rinehart Excavating of Delphi.

“This Two-Stage ditch installation in Tippecanoe County illustrates the extensive collaboration between conservation partners,” said Kent Wamsley of The Nature Conservancy. “This is the first of eight projects to be completed under an IDEM 319 grant funding for state-wide implementation of Two-Stage ditches over the next 2 years.” There are seven spots left to fill, and interested parties are encouraged to get in touch with Kent.

Wamsley acknowledges that the up-front costs of installing a Two-Stage ditch are greater than a standard bottom dipping and bank reshaping of a ditch. Two-Stage Ditches are not a “one size fits all,” and many factors go into deciding what locations are appropriate for them, but they are a vital tool in the conservation of Indiana’s freshwater systems. To help landowners implement the practice and provide some assistance to County Surveyors and Drainage Boards, Wamsley encourages landowners to apply for the IDEM funding.

Details of the IDEM funding include:
• Funds to cover up to 75% of project construction, not to exceed $7.50 per linear foot
• Minimum of ½ mile ditch with additional length encouraged
• Partnering with SWCD’s, County Surveyors, Drainage Boards, Drainage Districts, and watershed groups
• Highlighting improvements to water quality by assimilating nutrients, sorting sediments, and reducing the peak flows of storm events.
• Entire Wabash watershed is eligible
• The Nature Conservancy coordinates with partners to find eligible sites
• Piloting the practice as another tool available to improve water quality in Indiana

Wamsley and the Conservancy are conducting a Two-Stage ditch field day on Friday, September 7, in Tippecanoe County. The field day will be held at the newly-completed project site from 10AM to Noon (Eastern Time).

Attendees at the field day will learn about the benefits and technical details of designing and installing a Two-Stage ditch. The field day will also show how this best management practice manages water at peak flows while also improving habitat for fish and other animals.

The landowner and surveyor involved in the installation process will be available to talk about how they were able to leverage resources to implement this technology.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

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