Bret Margraf won an outstanding service award Wednesday morning during the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition's annual meeting. Members met at Mohawk Community Center to celebrate its 15th year of existence.
Margraf, a technician with Seneca Soil and Water Conservation District, was awarded for his work since 2008 encouraging farmers to participate in the Honey Creek Watershed grant program. He could not attend the meeting because he was attending the Ohio No-Till Conference, so Director Cindy Brookes said she arranged for him to be presented the award at that conference.
Also awarded for outstanding service was Megan Brown, a senior at Heidelberg University who served as a summer intern for the coalition. Among a list of accomplishments noted by Brookes during her three months as intern was her leadership of more than 200 volunteers who helped clean up the river during last summer's Sandusky River Clean Sweep.
Chairman John Willey also was awarded for outstanding service.
The Andersons won a Donor Award for providing a $5,000 grant this year, doubled from its 2011 donation.
During the business meeting, Willey reported fundraising this year totaled $7,454, of which $1,275 was from from Seneca County, $5,000 from a donation from The Andersons and $505 from a donation from Dwight and Lisa Clary from sales of cover crop seed.
During her report, Brookes gave an example of how each farm doing a small amount to reduce nutrient runoff can make a big difference.
If each farm in the watershed - more than 1.1 million acres - reduced its dissolved reactive phosphorous by a half-pound per acre, she said 292 tons of DRP could be saved from ending up in Lake Erie, which would improve algal blooms.
"This is to drive home what we can accumulatively achieve by reducing runoff," she said.
She said cover crops help to prevent runoff and help replenish the ground water supply rural people depend on by encouraging water to percolate into the ground instead of running off into streams.
If property owners leave grass in their yard grow a little bit higher, that also helps keep water from running off into streams in the country or into the sewer system in the city.
"That's what we're trying to get people to realize," she said. "We live in an region where we rely on ground water."
Education Committee chairwoman Lisa Clary said her committee has been working on updating a resources map, and is looking for grant money to fund the next printing. Its next projects are to create placemats to distribute free to restaurants within the watershed that will introduce the watershed and its mission to the general public, and create a DVD about septic tank care.
"We plan to work with local realtors to get them in the hands of new property owners," Clary said.
Mike Hall, chairman of the Land Use and Resource Management Committee, reported on progress of soil conservation programs funded by grants.
Robert England, chairman of the Water Supply and Wastewater Committee, reported 41 new septic systems were installed in the watershed this year for low-income people and the coalition has applied for $1.3 million in grant funds for 2013.
England said there are an unknown number of old systems that need to be replaced.
"Which basically means they're puking sewage into these streams," England said. "I'm hopeful that we get this grant funding and we can repair twice as many systems next year."
This year, 12 systems were replaced in Seneca County, 10 in Erie and Sandusky counties, five in Crawford and four in Wyandot. Requests on a waiting list include 10 in Wyandot County and 20 each in Seneca, Sandusky, Crawford and Erie.
Newly elected to the coalition's steering committee are Ren Confesor of Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research, representing Seneca County; Don Ralph, representing Hardin and Marion counties; and John Parker of McCutchenville, filling an at-large position. Joe Perry of Sandusky County and Craig Houin, at-large, were reelected.
Dwight Clary is the new chair of the Land Use and Resource Management Committee for 2013. Lisa Clary was reappointed to the Education Committee and Bob England to the Water Supply and Wastewater Committee.
Taking over as chairman for 2013 is Kate Siefert of Crawford County Health Department. She has been working with the coalition since 1993.'
"We work in small steps," she said. " So you don't realize how much in 10 years you can do."