The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
  • Front.homecoming Court
  • Cheer
  • Front.park.lights
  • Front.pull
  • Front.ropes
  • Front.sculpt
  • Front.tar.wide
  • Front.toss
  • Front.walk Across

River of Grass: NRCS grass waterways

Written by David Green.


Whatever the glaciers left behind, people like Amber Hoover-Smith have to deal with it.

grass-waterway Hoover-Smith, a technician with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), walks the hills and gullies of area farm fields, examining the washouts and the tile breaks and looking for evidence of runoff into drains.

This is where agriculture meets geology.

There are solutions to the problems brought on by row crops on hilly ground. The most common direction to take is the creation of a waterway. Like a river of grass snaking through the field, a waterway serves as an avenue for field drainage—minus the bulk of erosion and runoff of farm chemicals and nutrients.

Conservation measures such as this aren’t forced onto a farmer.

“It’s an entirely voluntary program,” Hoover-Smith said. “Typically, a farmer comes to us for help.”

That was the case in an NRCS project near US-127 and Lime Creek Road where Hoover-Smith is spending a lot of time. Through the years, a gully has deepened on property owned by Ron Oates. To complicate matters, breaks in a 12-inch tile dug several holes in the ground—big enough to drive a car into, as Hoover-Smith puts it.

The project on the Oates farm is unique, she says, because it’s actually a partnership that extends onto neighboring ground owned by Wayne Shinaberry.

All in all, the waterway being developed extends about 3,500 feet from US-127 east to Lime Creek. More than 100 acres of land is included in the watershed.

Creating a grass waterway takes some land out of production, but a good share of the eroding area had become unusable anyway.

“You can’t farm through it,” Hoover-Smith said, “and it’s always going to be there.”

Ron Oates knows that all too well. Between the washouts and brush, there was quite a lot of territory that he couldn’t touch.

Wayne Shinaberry first started the conservation project

 and Oates followed suit.

“I’ve wanted to do it for years,” he said. “I needed to clean it out so we’d have a good flow to the creek. Now it’s being fixed up good and it’s getting done right.”

For Oates, the waterway takes up only about one acre of land, but he’s not complaining. The project has left him with more usuable land than before.

Finding a cure

Drive by a southwest Lenawee County field and it might look rather flat, but take a closer look on foot and the slopes come into view. Eventually, a gully will be encountered.

“We survey the watercourse in which the gully has formed because that’s where the water goes to find an outlet,” Hoover-Smith explained.

Sometimes a gully has be partially filled before a new bed is created.

“Our goal with a grass waterway is to provide a wider channel bottom in the naturally existing watercourse so that the water is spread out over a broad grassed area.”

This causes the runoff to flow more gently, and with a thick cover of tall fescue grass, the water won’t cut through and wash away the soil underneath.

The wide channel of grass also creates a larger area for sediment and contaminants to settle out of the water.

Benefits of a waterway vary with the terrain, soil type, tillage practices, nutrients applied and crops planted, but as a general guide, conservation buffers such as grass waterways can eliminate up to 60 percent of the pathogens from manure application found in runoff; up to 80 percent of sediment; up to 40 percent of phosphorous from fertilizer; and a significant portion of nitrate runoff.

Every waterway has to have a stable outlet, Hoover-Smith says, in order to slow the flow of water as it enters a ditch or stream. At one waterway in the current project, a covering of rip-rap holds the bank in place. After a heavy rain, water would sometimes flow over Lime Creek Road.

At the larger waterway, a wooden box structure was built, giving the water a rip-rap covered pool to collect in before moving on into Lime Creek.

“It takes the velocity out of the water,” Hoover-Smith said.

The NRCS office provides the engineering behind a project. A survey of the watershed leads to the technical drawings of the waterway. This is given to the landowner who then finds a contractor. NRCS has a list of several suggested contractors who tackle this sort of project.

That’s not the end of NRCS involvement. Workers check the slide slope of the trapezoidal-shaped channel. They measure the bottom depth, they look over the outlet to see that it meets specifications.

“Our office has to sign off that the project was done correctly in order for the farmer to get paid [through the federal CCRP program],” Hoover-Smith said.


The services provided by the NRCS are often spread by word of mouth, but the office also schedules informational meetings during the slow season. Slow season?

“I used to think there was a slow time of the year,” Hoover-Smith said, “but I’m not so sure now.”

The NRCS intends to complete 87 engineering projects this year in the county, including grass waterways, water control outlet structures, agri-chemical containment facilities, waste storage facilities, water diversions, water and sediment control basins, wetland restoration and shallow water areas for wildlife.

The new federal farm bill reissued several old conservation programs, she said, and some new ones might be on the horizon.

“We get a lot of new people every year.”

For the NRCS, the slow season seems to be disappearing, but that’s nothing for the staff to complain about. As they see it, that means the interest in conservation measures is on the rise.

• For information about any NRCS programs, visit the Conservation District office at 1100 Sutton Road, Adrian, or call 517/263-7400. 

   - Sept. 17, 2003

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2015