Drought causing problems in areas other than agriculture

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As Switzerland County farmers try and harvest their crops after a growing season with little rain, other areas of the county are also being affected by the drought conditions.

Bonnie Fancher, science teacher at Switzerland County High School, has been involved with the Indian Creek Watershed Project since 2001. She says that the drought is having a negative effect on the watershed.

“I have concerns about the health of the base of the ecosystem in Indian Creek due to the drought,” Bonnie Fancher said. “As part of my work with students, we have monitored the macro invertebrates – small living organisms that support the food chain – and have found, in past years, that Indian Creek has supported an excellent variety of organisms that are sensitive to pollution.”

But Bonnie Fancher says that when organisms that are sensitive to pollution are present, it means that the organisms have not been exposed to pollutants such as toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

“My concern is that much of the stream flow has ceased because of the extremely low rain conditions throughout the summer months,” Bonnie Fancher said. “Many of these organisms need the continuous presence of water to survive.”

She said that she and her students will again monitor the macro invertebrates in the spring, and at that time they will have a better idea on the effect that the drought has had on the watershed.

“We need to wait until there is water flowing in the streams to do the monitoring,” she said.

Because all of the watersheds in Switzerland County – Grant’s Creek, Goose Creek, Bryant’s Creek, Log Lick Creek, Plum Creek, Indian Creek, and part of Laughery Creek – all supply wildlife with water, Bonnie Fancher believes that the drought is having a negative impact on wildlife in this area, as well.

“Some species of wildlife depend on the Ohio River and farm ponds for water sources,” Bonnie Fancher said. “But the watersheds within our county are critical to the maintenance of quality habitat for our wildlife.”

Bonnie Fancher said that the weather station located at the high school is showing .36-inches of rain for September; and 25.31-inches for the year. She said that she believes that normal amounts range between 42-44 inches a year here.

The lack of rain has also caused the Switzerland County Commissioners to impose an open burning ban throughout the county.

The ban on open burning is in effect 24 hours a day, and will remain in effect until it is revoked by the commissioners.

The ordinance reads: “No person shall set, start, or attempt to set or start an open fire within the county during the duration of this emergency unless he or she has first obtained and has in his or her possession a written permit from the fire department having jurisdiction over the area where the open fire is to be conducted.

“Open fires include trash burning, camp fires, and recreational burning.”