The project that I have been working on for the last couple of weeks, and will continue to work on for the next two weeks, is assisting the stream quality personnel in the tribe's Environmental Protection Program with the preparation of a watershed-based management plans for two small creeks: Wounded Knee Creek and Porcupine Creek.
They are both two little prairie creeks that run north to join the White River. In general, they have very good quality water, although the levels of some nutrients and minerals exceed state water quality guidelines for surface waters. They are beautiful little streams, with a healthy border of shrubs and trees running alongside the creek on either side as they meander through a mostly grassy region, then into the badlands, and finally into the White River.
The idea behind the watershed based plan is to focus on a geographical area that is small enough that efforts to improve management practices (such as fencing and watering stations to keep cattle out of the creek beds) will have a real impact and improve the quality of the creek -- making the water clearer, allow it to support more fish, etc. Here are some photos of different types of land use in the watersheds with more information about the project and my role.
I have been helping to pull all of the existing data into one place so this week we can sit down and look at trends in the water quality parameters over time and over the course of the stream. The next step will be matching that to the likely sources of contaminants in the watershed. Because of how sparsely populated this land is, relatively speaking the watershed is in very good condition.
Communities are so small here that many have a total retention pond as their wastewater treatment system, some of which are very near the creeks. The Environmental Protection Program monitors the water in the creeks before and after these ponds to find out how much of an impact they are having on the creeks.
The other big thing I am helping with is generating a list of potential community partners and helping the staff develop outreach information and materials for getting community input and forming partnerships.
I just made this video as an example of what they can do with a digital camera and imovie. I would love to work with them to make a slightly longer video with their voices, videos, photos, and comments that they could use to initiate and focus the conversation at community meetings.