Watershed to be discussed

The health of the lower stretch of the Muskingum River, and of all its tributary streams, will be the topic of a free and public presentation on Jan. 23 at Marietta College.

Jesse Daubert, watershed coordinator for the non-profit organization, Friends of Lower Muskingum River (FLMR), will talk on “Planning for a Healthier Watershed.”

Daubert spent the past three years developing a detailed plan, endorsed by Ohio’s state government, with projects over the coming years “to improve, restore, protect and maintain the physical, biological and chemical integrity of the lower Muskingum River.” He is a 2009 graduate of Marietta College with a bachelor’s of science, majoring in environmental science.

His presentation, at FLMR’s monthly meeting, is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, in room 150 of the Rickey Science Center at Marietta College, on Fourth Street between Putnam and Butler streets.

Daubert’s work on the Southern Watershed Action Plan was funded jointly by the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Soil and Water Resources with matching funds from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. The plan covers the river and its watershed from Big Run creek, about midway between Beverly and Lowell, downstream to the where the Muskingum rolls into the Ohio River.

Overall and in general, Daubert said, the water quality and biological life of the Muskingum River is good. While, of course, almost no river in 21st Century America could be described as “pristine,” he says, “We know the Muskingum River is safe for recreation, and that is why our organization promotes fishing and boating and swimming and rafting and all types of recreational activities on this river.”

The aim of every project in the Watershed Action Plan he developed, Daubert added, is “to improve the water quality and the biological life of the river and of all its tributary streams to the point where, say for example, children can play in complete safety in any feeder stream of this watershed, with no concern at all.”

Answering a question often posed by people about the Muskingum, Daubert said the river’s deep brown color has nothing to do with pollution or water quality. Even hundreds of years before Europeans discovered North America, he said, the Muskingum River was always a brown or “muddy” river for two reasons.

First, he explained, is the type of clay soils that form the river bed. The second reason is the size and scope of this river, by far the largest contained wholly within Ohio. “This is a huge watershed” which collects every drop of water “from about one/third of the entire state of Ohio,” he said.

Founded 11 years ago, the FLMR has more than 100 dues-paying members, including not only individuals and families, but also several businesses that support protecting and improving this river and watershed.

With the public welcome to all of its monthly meetings, this organization meets through the warm-weather months at a potluck, picnic dinner at the picnic shelter members built on its approximately 60-acre property along the river at Luke Chute. During the winter, FLMR’s monthly meetings are indoor events with educational programs, usually held at Marietta College.

Among the projects FLMR does each year are: hosting the The Mighty Muskingum River Raft Regatta on the second weekend of August as part of the annual Rivers, Trails and Ales Festival in Marietta; and a riversweep clean-up of a section of the Muskingum River sponsored by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.

To promote environmental protection and improvements as well as outdoor recreation and conservation, the organization owns more than 200 acres of property at several sites and also strives to protect biological impacts on the river with the conservation easements it has on more than 600 acres at locations scattered throughout the watershed.

One of the organization’s goals this year will be the acquisition of more land and more conservation easements.

For more information about the FLMR or the Muskingum River, go to the group’s website: www.muskingumriver.org. One of the many features on the website is a compilation of the group’s current and past quarterly newsletters.

Jim Konkoly, Washington Water Solutions endowed, OSM/AmeriCorps VISTA for Friends of Lower Muskingum River.