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GOSHEN -- William Deegen knows the rain garden he installed earlier this year outside his home won't solve the world's environmental problems.
The 12-foot by 6-foot patch is a step in the right direction, though, and he figures if others see how it's done, maybe they'll install rain gardens of their own. "At least it's a start," he said.
Elkhart County officials, too, hope that Deegan and others here with rain gardens serve as examples, and they're trying to get word out that grant money is available for others wanting to follow suit. Rain gardens -- gardens planted with native plant species in slight depressions -- collect rain water runoff, help scrub it of pollutants and keep it from inundating rivers and other waterways.
"It'll look like a flower garden, a perennial flower garden," said Eric Kurtz of the Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation District, the county office helping manage the grant program.
Some $180,000 in grant funding was made available by federal environmental authorities through the program, though $68,000 has been earmarked. The money may be tapped by Goshen and Elkhart homeowners in the Elkhart River watershed as well as farmers operating in 14 potentially problematic areas within the watershed.
The funds may be used for rain gardens, green roofs and pervious paving. Green roofs are gardens planted on rooftops that help minimize rain water runoff while pervious paving is a type of asphalt that allows rain water to soak through to the soil below.
Eligible farmers, meanwhile, may use grant funding for a wide range of programs meant to prevent sediment, nutrient and e-coli problems.
The deadline to apply is Jan. 31, though the pertinent development doesn't have to occur until warmer weather, and grants may be used to cover up to 75 percent of eligible project costs. Application information may be found at www.elkhartriveralliance.org.
Alternatively, interested homeowners may contact Kurtz for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org. Farmers interested in the agricultural grants may contact Lynette Black at email@example.com. Both may be reached by calling 533-3630, ext. 3.