FRANKTON — Clean water is important to Dan Lawler.

“Water quality is one of the most important things you can get into,” the 64-year-old fertilizer hauler for Ag-One Co-Op said. “The cleaner the water, the better (the planet) is forever.”

The Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District wants more farmers to think like him. Wednesday, they held a public meeting to tell Frankton residents about the $32,000 in grants available to build buffer strips around the Swanfelt Ditch.

About eight miles long, the ditch collects all the water from farm tiles and run off. Entirely surrounded by farm land, the ditch starts around County Road 1475 North and runs through 700 North, where it dumps into Pipe Creek.

The county has a $73,050 grant to clean up the ditch. Non-point-source pollution, or small amounts of matter from sources like manure, fertilizer or simple dirt is something of a problem along the Swanfelt, and the county wants to clean it up.

To do so, the county is offering grants that pay for 75 percent of the cost to put some kind of buffer strip. The landowner would have to pay for the other 25 percent, but it can come from in-kind services, like the labor to put it in or use as personal tools.

“Buffers are probably the best bang for your buck,” watershed coordinator Crist Blassaras said.

Buffers can be as simple as a strip of unmown grass that helps filter fertilizer from the runoff or as extensive as a fully re-planted habitat for birds and wildlife.

People have to fill out an application and get approval in order to receive grant money.

“We have people who can help you along the way,” Blassaras said. For more information, he can be reached at 644-4249 extension 118 or visit www.madisonswcd.org.

What they want to avoid is people planting crops or grass right up to the edge of the ditch. Those plants don’t hold soil, they contribute to erosion and don’t help filter out any toxins, according to Blassaras.

The ideal situation, he said, is to have overhanging trees near the ditch, because the shade cools down the water, helping good bacteria to grow.

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