How a $1.2M grant will be used to restore watersheds

Ottawa County was recently awarded $1.2 million in funding through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) Nonpoint Source Program for the Sand Creek and Crockery Creek Restoration Project. 

This funding is provided through Section 319 of the Federal Clean Water Act and is meant to clean up pollutants in “impaired” watersheds. 

The Sand Creek and Crockery Creek watersheds are listed as impaired because of the presence of E. coli bacteria and other water quality issues, such as altered hydrology, wetland loss, excess nutrients, and sedimentation. 

This creek is part of the Sand Creek and Crockery Creek watersheds.

Although these pollutants can enter the watershed in many ways, the primary sources include residential septic system failures and agricultural activity causing runoff and erosion, according to Benjamin Jordan, the county’s watershed conservation technician.

This project will focus on identifying target areas for restoration and implementing best management practices (BMPs) to reduce nonpoint source pollutant loading. 

Funding for agricultural practices

The Ottawa Conservation District (OCD) staff plans to provide a number of services to residents and agricultural producers in these watersheds, including outreach and education, technical assistance, conservation planning, and cost-share for BMPs. 

This project will include a septic assistance program that will help identify failed septic systems and provide reimbursements of up to 75% of the cost to repair or replace them. It will also include funding for agricultural practices, such as cover crops, reduced tillage, livestock exclusion fencing, grassed waterways, filter strips, and manure management. 

This creek is part of the Sand Creek and Crockery Creek watersheds.
In addition to providing grant funds, OCD staff will work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to assist with enrollment in federal cost-share programs, and the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) to encourage farms to get MAEAP verified.

Other partners on this project include Ottawa, Muskegon, Kent, and Newaygo county governments, townships, agricultural retailers, the Ottawa County Farm Bureau, and a number of producers that have already signed letters of commitment to a variety of practices. 

This work will supplement the OCD’s robust watershed program, which includes a similar grant for the Bass River and Deer Creek Restoration Project, multiple road-stream crossing and habitat assessment projects, writing of the Pigeon River Watershed Management Plan, and funding through NRCS’ Regional Conservation Partnership Plan (RCPP) for the Farmland and Water Quality Conservation Initiative.

This project, which launched in August, will continue until fall 2024. If you want to learn more, contact Benjamin Jordan at 616-842-5852, ext. 5, or


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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.