What Is A Watershed?
A watershed describes an area of land that contains all the streams and rivers that drain into a single larger body of water, such as a river, lake or ocean. A watershed can cover a small or large land area. Small watersheds are usually part of larger watersheds. Not only does water run into the streams from the surface, but water also filters through the soil, and some of this water eventually drains into the same streams.
The Big Pine and Mud Pine watersheds cover
209,709 acres in Benton, Warren and White counties.
Historical accounts tell us that Big Pine Creek was a full and slow moving stream with clear water, surrounded by wetlands and tall grass prairie that allowed little storm water runoff. Although some of this is still found today, many stresses on the environment have now placed the watershed in a battle. This battle ensues as we seek to balance the demand on agriculture lands to provide the food we need, healthy water to drink and recreate in, and habitat for wildlife.
About the Big Pine
The Big Pine watershed is part of the Middle Wabash-Little Vermilion watershed and covers portions of Benton, Warren, Tippecanoe, and White counties. The watershed extends from Interstate 65 in White County to west of State Road 41 in Benton County, and drains southward until emptying into the Wabash River near the town of Attica. The Big Pine watershed covers 209,709 acres (329 square miles) and includes the towns of Boswell, Pine Village, and Oxford, as well as the southern half of Fowler.
Today, over 80% of the land in the Big Pine watershed is in row crop agriculture, due to the rich soils that were formerly prairies and wetlands. In fact, in 2011, Benton and Warren Counties alone produced over 37 million bushels of corn (NASS, 2011). Only about 7% of the land remains forested—largely in areas along the Big Pine or other places too difficult to facilitate row crop agriculture. Almost all the wetlands in the watershed have been drained—less than 1% of the land is currently characterized as wetlands by USGS.
Big Pine Creek Project Goals
- Encourage the use of conservation best management practices at a scale likely to improve soil and water quality in the Big Pine Creek watershed.
- Assist local farmers and community leaders to address water quality concerns:
- Assist local municipalities improve wastewater treatment and address deficiencies.
- Address farmland runoff and soil erosion by encouraging the use of best practices.
- Engage local citizens and relevant local government officials to help protect water quality.
- Increase awareness of Big Pine Creek as a valuable resource in the area worthy of protection.
- Create partnerships and build local capacity to ensure that the work of the Big Pine Creek project has strong local leadership and is sustainable into the foreseeable future.
Progress to Date
- A watershed management plan has been developed for the watershed as a guidance document.
- Monitoring is underway for water quality.
- We held both a conservation practice field day and a forestry field day, with additional field days planned.
- Two of the top critical sub-watersheds in the Big Pine watershed were awarded MRBI funding.
- Work is underway to connect farmers to larger initiatives, such as the National Soil Health Initiative, to achieve their future farming goals as well.
1500 acres of cover crops were planted in the fall of 2014 as a result of this effort. Four additional on-the-ground projects were implemented this spring: grassed waterway, drainage water management and sub-irrigation system, oak woodland restoration, oak savanna restoration, and streambank stabilization.
Funding has been received by the Nina Mason Pulliam Trust, Alcoa, Walton Foundation, Benton County, LARE program, and Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) to build up the capacity in the Big Pine Watershed and implement on the ground projects. These funds combined represent nearly one million dollars of conservation benefit in the Big Pine Watershed. This is just the second year of the Big Pine Project.
Project Partners and Steering Committee Members
- Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC)
- Wabash River Enhancement Corporation
- NICHES Land Trust
- The Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Warren County, Benton County, White County and their Boards
- Benton County Commissioners
- CERES Solutions
- Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
- Indiana Department of Environmental Management
- Indiana Department of Agriculture
- Purdue Extension
- U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and its offices in Benton, White, and Warren Counties
- Individual farmers and businesspeople in the Big Pine watershed