I have lived in northeastern Indiana my whole life because I love it. I believe we live in the "garden spot" of the world. I constantly tell my friends, "I can't imagine heaven getting better than this."
What I really love about our community is all our natural resources and fresh water. We have hundreds of lakes, ponds, rivers and stream. I believe that we are all proud of the abundance of fresh water in our community, and we try to take excellent care of it.
I love seeing Hoosiers and tourist in our region to go fishing or boating in our waters.
Since I have so much pride in our district, I am heavily involved in our state's fresh water preservation matters. I am the Ranking Republican Member of the House Natural Resource Committee. I am also a member of the Indiana Lake Management Society and the vice chairman of the Indiana Lakes Management Work Group.
Recently I attended the 22nd Annual Indiana Lakes Management Conference at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville, IN. Over 300 people attended the conference.
There was a wide range of people at this conference. People from state organizations and associations, lake management companies, local municipalities, legislators (at all levels of government), army corps of engineers, university professors, USEPA, IDEM, DNR, etc., were in attendance. Basically anyone in the state who has an interest or stake in lakes, rivers or streams was at the conference.
The main idea of every discussion was simply how do we improve and preserve our natural waters. I learned about several chemical treatments, grants and laws that are currently being considered in Indiana or used in other states.
During the conference, I was mostly involved with discussions about invasive species. As most of you know, invasive species such as hydrilla, parrot feathers and weeds are our community largest threat to our lakes, rivers and streams. I entered the conference looking for what financial relief is available to our community.
Just like everything else in life, the economy has limited resources available to our lakes. The economic recession has our state in a tough spot. There are many municipalities and associations that are requesting state funding, but the state financially can't meet all the demands.
Not too long ago, Indiana introduced LARE funding (Lake and River Enhancement Fund). The LARE fund is grant money from the Department of Natural Resources specifically for lake clean up.
As of January 15 this fiscal year, there has been over $8 million in applications submitted to the DNR. However, the state's LARE fund does not have $8 million in funding. Last year, LARE issued a total of $948,000 in grants throughout the state.
The DNR has decided to prioritize what natural waters in the state should receive LARE funding according to how much invasive species damage has been done. In our community Hamilton Lake and Big Turkey Lake are our highest contaminated lakes. Since the economy has tightened our state's spending, the DNR is unable to assist those lakes through state grants.
Just because LARE funding isn't available this moment doesn't mean there are no other options to resolve this problem. Here are a few things everyone can do to preserve and improve our natural waters:
- Don't dump any trash into the lakes, rivers and streams (I think everyone knows how awful this is but people still manage to do it).
- Make sure your septic system is clean. This can contaminate your ground water or seep out into runoff water.
- Dispose of chemicals properly. Don't ever throw hazardous waste into storm or sewer drains. All storm or sewer drains will eventually lead into a river, lake or stream.
- Plant trees, shrubs and flowers on shorefront property. Those vegetative buffers help remove sediments and other soil nutrients (which is harmful for water) from runoff water before entering a lake.
- Construct docks and floats with environmentally friendly materials such as cedar, redwood, cypress, recycled wood/plastic and aluminum. Pressure treated and painted wood possess chemicals that harm water organisms.
- Don't feed the ducks! I know it is fun, and I am guilty of it myself, but feeding ducks food that isn't natural and from the watershed will make their fecal matter toxic to the water. It can also lead to large algae blooms.
- Don't over fertilize your lawn. Lawn fertilizer is filled with hazardous chemicals, which if exposed to lakes, carry tremendous consequences such as algae blooms.
- Clean your boats and boat trailers. You don't want to transport nuisance species from one lake to another. I believe this is a leading cause for our lakes not being as clean as they should be. In the summer there are several fishing tournaments in our community where people load contaminated boats and trailers into our lakes.
- Don't clean your boat or trailer with soap in the lake. Detergents in natural waters will create algae blooms.
I have strong relationships with the DNR and will continue to work with them to try to keep our lakes, rivers and streams clean so you and your family can enjoy them.