The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is working with two other water quality agencies to collect data and samples for a new project called the White River Mainstem Project.
The DNR is working with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Water Quality and the Muncie Sanitary District’s Bureau of Water Quality. Southern Fisheries Research Biologist Sandy Clark-Kolaks said because all three agencies were planning on taking samples from the White River this year, now is the right time for them to collaborate.
“None of the agencies could do this alone,” Clark-Kolaks said, “But because we’re working together, we’re doing more extensive sampling than anything that has ever been done in Indiana.”
The collaborative effort will give the agencies more personnel to collect more data from a larger stretch of the river.
The project began this year by collecting samples from 17 out of 62 sites along the river. Data sampling sites stretch an estimated 356 miles from Winchester to the confluence of the White River and the Wabash River.
The data being collected focuses on water quality, fish communities, and aquatic and insect monitoring. This particular type of monitoring will provide a bigger picture of what the environment looks like for other organisms aside from fish.
“These are very sensitive organisms that are really affected by water quality,” Clark-Kolaks said. “So, we’re kind of looking at the whole community of a river, not just water and not just fish, but everything in between.”
As for fish communities, the information being recorded includes fish species, size and structure, reproduction, fish growth, and food availability. The DNR expects more than 100 species of fish will be documented during the project. Sampling of the fish communities will happen once throughout all 62 sites, and three times for water quality. The team has already sampled twice for water quality.
Residents near the river have already expressed their excitement for the project and that people are starting to pay more attention to the fish communities and biotic life found in and around the river.
“Just across the state, I think, with COVID and things like that, people are recreating outdoors a lot more,” Clark-Kolaks said. “Just going and playing in the creek or canoeing or kayaking is really about the greatest stress-reliever that you can find. Embracing the resources that you have and really just getting outside and looking what’s in your backyard.”
All the information and data collected from the project will be posted at idem.IN.gov/WhiteRiverProject. As more data comes in the website will be updated so people interested can follow along with the team as this project continues.