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This photo shows classic gully erosion in a local farm field. 

DECATUR – Farmers and farm managers could receive federal money to fix erosion problems on their properties through the efforts of the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District.

As it prepares to apply for the grant funding, the district wants property owners who might qualify to reach out to them for a free consultation with the district’s watershed technician. In particular, it wants to hear from people who live in Macon, Piatt and DeWitt counties in the Lake Decatur watershed area.

There are no strings attached to a consultation, said Megan Baskerville, watershed specialist. If the district receives the money, property owners could get subsidies to cover more than half the cost of solutions.

“If they have a gully in their field or erosion that they just don’t know how to handle, we would love to do site visits and give them some options on how to fix it, and also apply for cost-share money to help them implement the fixes,” she said.

The money is associated with the Clean Water Act and distributed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The same funding source brought about $400,000 into the area over the past two years, Baskerville said.

Common solutions that might be funded by the grant include streambank stabilization, grassed waterways, grade stabilization structures, cover crops, sediment detention basins and permanent vegetative cover.

Property owners who work to prevent erosion could ultimately save money for Decatur water customers, said Keith Alexander, the city’s director of water management.

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Sediment runoff into the lake has been a problem since it was built in the early 1920s. The city is in the midst of a $91 million dredging project to remove much of the sediment and create “sediment traps” that could prevent the problem in the future.

Those sediment traps must be dredged regularly. “These types of projects will allow us to hopefully delay the next time we have to dredge the sediment traps, because there will be less sediment coming into the lake,” Alexander said.

Another issue is chemicals. Erosion leads to higher levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the drinking water, which the city must spend more resources to treat.

Phosphorus also leads to algae growth, which can make lake recreation less appealing.

The district would prefer responses by mid-June to meet its grant application deadline, though Baskerville said its doors are always open to farmers with questions.

Property owners can contact Baskerville at (217) 877-5670, ext. 3, megan.baskerville@nacdnet.net, or visit the USDA Service Center at 4004 College Park Rd. in Decatur.

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Regional Editor

Regional editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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