Berrien County Conservation District

Preserving and Protecting our Natural Resources

Ox Creek Watershed Project

Although there are multiple threats to water quality in Ox Creek,  the two biggest problems are sediment from agricultural operations and storm water run-off from the hundreds of acres of existing pavement, especially around the Orchards Mall area. Berrien Conservation District's role in the project aims to educate farmers about best management practices that reduce or even eliminate soil running off their fields and then affecting water quality.  In addition, we are offering assistance to landowners interested in USDA funding for conservation practices for soil and water quality.  The Wetland Reserve Easement Program for eligible land is also being offered.

Why the Interest in Ox Creek?
Ox Creek is a warmwater stream that flows through Benton Harbor where it joins the Paw Paw. It originates in agricultural lands east of the city and drains an area of 16.5 square miles. The lower portion of the watershed is heavily influenced by urbanization and storm water. Ox Creek appears on Michigan’s §303(d) list because it is not meeting the “other indigenous aquatic life and wildlife” designated use; indicated by poor macroinvertebrate community ratings. Sedimentation, siltation, total suspended solids (TSS), and flow regime alterations are causes of the impairment.

Here is a list of best management practices that may work for you!    

Wetland Reserve Easements – Through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, landowners receive assistance to restore wetlands that were converted to agricultural use. The USDA purchases a permanent or long-term 30 year easement on the land to ensure that the restored wetland is preserved.

 Conservation Activity Plans:

Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan: Develop a livestock waste management plan.

Conservation Plan Supporting Organic Transition:  Develop a transition plan from conventional farming or ranching systems to an organic production system.

Drainage Water Management Plan:  Develop a plan to control soil water table elevations and discharges from subsurface agriculture drainage systems.

Fish and Wildlife Habitat Management Plan:  Develop a site specific plan for fish and wildlife habitat.

Integrated Pest Management Plan:  Develop an ecosystem-based plan to manage pests using a combination of techniques.

Irrigation Water Management Plan:  Develop a plan to control the volume, frequency, and rate of water for efficient irrigation.

Nutrient Management Plan:  Develop a nutrient management plan for fertilizers.

Priority Core Practices:

Access Control:  Install a temporary or permanent barrier to exclude animals, humans, vehicles, and/ or equipment from an area.

Amending Soil Properties with Gypsum:  Improve soil physical/chemical properties to reduce soil erosion and improve infiltration.

Conservation Cover:  Plant species to reduce erosion and protect water quality.

Cover Crop:  Plant 1-3 species for soil health and water quality management.

Critical Area Planting:  Plant permanent vegetation on highly disturb sites with high erosion rates.

Drainage Water Management:  Install a drainage water control structure, and manage it for water quality.

Field Border:  Plant a strip of permanent vegetation at the field edge or around field perimeter.

Filter Strip:  Plant species that increase water infiltration and protect water quality.

Grassed Waterway:  Provide means for slowing water flow and increasing infiltration.

Irrigation System, Sprinkler:  Install the necessary equipment and facilities for efficient water application.

Irrigation Water Management:  Implement irrigation management to optimize for the most efficient use of water.

Nutrient Management:  Implement Nutrient Management Plans for nutrients and sediment.

Open Channel:  Construct, improve, ore restore an open channel to convey water.

Prescribed Grazing:  Manage the harvest of vegetation with grazing and/ or browsing animals.

Residue and Tillage Management – No-Till:  Implement modified tillage and residue management to increase water infiltration.

Residue and Tillage Management – Reduced Till:  Implement reduce tillage methods and manage plant residue distribution on the soil surface year round.

Restoration and Management of Rare and Declining Habitats:  Restore habitat for rare and declining wildlife species.

Riparian Forest Buffer:  Plant tree and/ or shrubs adjacent to a watercourse or water bodies.

Riparian Herbaceous Cover:  Plant grass or forbs tolerant of intermittent flooding or saturated soils for terrestrial or aquatic habitat.

Stream Crossing:  Construct a travel way for people, livestock, equipment, or vehicles across a stream.

Stream Habitat Improvement and Management:  To maintain, improve, or restore the functions of a stream.

Streambank and Shoreline Protection:  Install treatments to stabilize / protect stream banks, construct channels, and shoreline of lake, reservoirs, or estuaries.

Supporting Practices:

Channel Bed Stabilization:  Stabilize the channel bed or bottom.

Fence:  Construct a barrier for animal or humans.

Forage and Biomass Planting:  Plant a grass species suitable for pasture, hay or biomass production.

Heavy Use Area Protection:  Stabilize a ground surface frequently and intensively used by people, animals or vehicles.

Livestock Pipeline:  Install a pipeline to move water for livestock.

Spoil Spreading:  Dispose of surplus excavated materials.

Trails and Walkways:  Construct a walkway used by animals, people, or off-road vehicles.

Subsurface Drain:  Install tile beneath the ground surface to collect and / or remove excess water.

Watering Facility:  Install a permanent or portable device to provide driving water for livestock.

USDA is an equal opportunity employer, provider, and lender.

If you live in Benton Township, or the portions of  Bainbridge and Sodus Townships as seen on the map , and are interested in a great opportunity to make a difference, please call us at 269-471-9111 ext. 3.