Improving water quality: Corps biologist fights algae blooms at Salamonie
May 23, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 23, 2013) -- Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) have been plaguing the Salamonie Watershed in Northern Indiana since 2009, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Louisville District Water Quality Biologist Jade Young has been working for more than three years to combat the problem.
Due to the concerns raised by HABs in the Salamonie Reservoir, the Louisville District Water Quality Team, which monitors water quality in the district's reservoirs, decided that an intensive study of the Salamonie Reservoir was needed to help determine the potential causes of these HABs.
The samples taken in 2009 at the reservoir, determined that the main inflow to the Salamonie Reservoir-- the Salamonie River-- was contributing high levels of nutrients and pollutants to the lake.
"We know that algae growth is fueled by nutrients, just like when you fertilize your yard," said Young. "It's the same concept." To better understand the sources of these pollutants and the Salamonie Reservoir Watershed itself, Young organized and led field work to collect samples from the entire stretch of the Salamonie River in 2010 and continued in 2011 and 2012. She printed maps, scoped out the best sampling sites and collected samples at more than 20 sites along the river three times a year for analysis. "I hoped to figure out the cause of the algae blooms," said Young, "It seemed like an interesting puzzle."
Ultimately the data showed high levels of nutrients through Salamonie River and a significant amount of run-off in the watershed.
"Jade's research has been presented to several Indiana state and county agencies as well as various watershed stakeholders," said Chris Karem, Louisville District environmental branch chief. "The samples and data collected under her guidance and management have aided Huntington County in attaining a 319 grant that will hopefully be utilized to improve water quality conditions in the Salamonie River and Reservoir."
In February, Young attended a meeting of the Lower Salamonie River Watershed Steering Committee to present the Corps' data from the past three years.
The meeting gathered partners from USACE, Indiana Department Environmental Management (IDEM), Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Salamonie Watershed Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), Huntington board of tourism, Taylor University and the Huntington County department of Health to discuss a 319 grant that was awarded to Huntington County.
The grant provides money to the county for research and implementation of best management practices and has already helped to hire a watershed coordinator for the project.
IDEM explained the basics of the 319 grant and the processes the committee would have to follow. "We have a diverse number of agencies working together and any issues we run into will be quickly addressed," said Young, who is fulfilling an advisory role to the committee.
"This is the start of a long journey to improve water quality at Salamonie," she said.
As of early May, no harmful algae blooms were currently present at Salamonie. Water samples collected from the lake, by John Scheiber, Salamonie project manager, indicated that the lake was not experiencing a blue-green algae bloom, which can take on various appearances and look like scum or green paint. "Last year because of the drought and such warm weather we had significant algae blooms," said Young.
In case the HABs return, there is a response plan in place requiring notification to the public. USACE, IDEM and IDNR are collaborating to post warning signs at the beaches, boat ramps and park entrance. "We have to notify the public of the risk they are taking by recreating in the reservoir when algae blooms are present," said Young.
Young, who has worked with the Louisville District for almost 4 years, received both of her degrees in Biology from Tennessee Technological University. In addition to leading the water quality team for the Louisville District, Young is also researching water quality issues at William H. Harsha Lake in Ohio.