Cain Addresses Sugar Creek Issues in LWV Talk

Cain Addresses Sugar Creek Issues in LWV Talk
Journal Review 4/7/2009
by Jay Heater

Zach Cain, president of the Friends of Sugar Creek, spent much of his presentation to the League of Women Voters’ Lunch with the League program talking about the considerable problems Sugar Creek must overcome.

After Monday’s program at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Cain noted that he doesn’t want to focus on the negative. “There are a lot of good things happening,” he said with a smile.

Indeed, Cain talked about the strides being accomplished as farmers become more informed about solid environmental practices, as cities take care of MS4 obligations, and as the public does its part to protect waterways.

However, Cain also emphasized that groups such as Friends of Sugar Creek need help. The group is seeking new members as well as support when it comes to policies that protect waterways.

Righting the sins of the past can be labor intensive as well as expensive. However, the cost of allowing a beautiful stream to become polluted and void of life will be far more expensive in the long run.

Cain, who is a farmer from Darlington, said many ordinances have been passed with the hope of protecting Sugar Creek, however, they have proven to be ineffective.

“We have a lot of rules and not much regulation,” he said. “There is not enough manpower to enforce the rules. We do not have enough eyes and ears on the creek.”

He said a planning and zoning ordinance to keep possible pollutants away from the creek would be an important step.

Even now, people fishing near Crawfordsville are warned not to eat fish caught in Sugar Creek.

Although the Friends of Sugar Creek hasn’t done much testing of late as to the creek’s water quality, Cain said he believes the water quality is improving.

Putting the MS4 program into place will be an effective step.

“Our sewer system in Crawfordsville is in disrepair,” Cain said. “That needs to be addressed.”

He also said the level of the creek fluctuates greatly because blacktop and rooftops send rain water rushing to the creek, swelling it quickly. Before all the development, rainwater tended to be absorbed into the soil before it reached the creek.

“There is nowhere for the water to go when it rains,” he said.

Finding a way to control that water before it goes in to the creek would be beneficial.

Fortunately, people seem to be open to new ideas when it comes to protecting the environment. Groups such as Pheasants Forever have teamed with farmers to plant natural grasses between streams and fields that act as filters. Other environmentally safe practices also are being engaged by farmers to protect waterways.

Crawfordsville Mayor Charlie Coons has been active in pushing forward the proposed Sugar Creek Nature Park, which will benefit the creek and the residents.

Cain said a major task of Friends of Sugar Creek is to educate the public on the importance of keeping Sugar Creek clean.

“During the annual creek clean-up, we always seem to drag junk out of the creek,” Cain said. “It’s hard to believe what you find in there. I found a complete set of X-rays one time. I guess a guy has his knee worked on.”

The Sugar Creek watershed runs through seven counties. More than 58,000 people live in that watershed. The creek is 90 miles long and starts at an elevation of 924 feet and ends at 459 feet. It was formed by the Wisconsin glacier about 18,000 years ago. The creek continues to be home for more than 80 species of fish.