The Shooter Ditch sub-watershed, constituting roughly 450 acres of drainage, is the primary source of sediment loading into Coffee Creek in Indiana’s Lake Michigan Basin. Shooter Ditch cuts through what was historically a large wetland complex and drains agricultural and residential land. On a per acre basis, despite being the smallest of Coffee Creek’s four sub-watersheds, Shooter Ditch contributes the largest amount of sediment.
Accordingly, the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy (CCWC) identified the Shooter Ditch subwatershed as a priority for restoration efforts and nonpoint source pollution reduction. In a unique cooperative effort among diverse stakeholders, the CCWC is now moving forward with a project to restore between 10 and 25 acres of wetlands along the legal drainage ditch.
The Shooter Ditch restoration site is upstream of the 167-acre Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve, which includes recently restored stream, prairie, and wetland communities. The Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve is under private ownership, and the ditch itself is managed under the authority of the Porter County Drainage Board. The CCWC is working with the private landowners to establish easements for restoring and managing the wetland. Porter County Suveyor Kevin Breitzke, who attended the USEPA Watershed Academy course in Michigan, is supportive of the project (provided that drainage is not impaired). His support is critical, and along with that of the Porter County Drainage Board represents major progress for Indiana, where typical drainage ditch maintenance involves short-term fixes such as dredging and vegetation clearing.
The Shooter Ditch Sediment Project, funded in part by a grant from the Great Lakes Commission, demonstrates how open communication and cooperation can result in substantial on-theground improvements to our natural environment. The restored wetland is expected to reduce the sediment load to Coffee Creek by 92 – 412 tons/year.