- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - A new project hopes to bring new life to Lake Decatur’s sediment by providing a foundation that will allow prairie grasses to grow.

The grasses may be used for a forage crop or a bioenergy crop, which would allow people to burn them for heat and power generation, Tim McMahon, biomass/watershed specialist for the Agricultural Watershed Institute, told the Herald & Review (http://bit.ly/1CgzmVJ ). The Decatur-based institute encourages farmland owners to prevent erosion by planting such grasses.

“We’re trying to give them another option of a perennial crop out there that could still be viable for an income and also have an environmental impact as far as water quality,” McMahon said.

In 2012, Decatur received a grant for the sediment project from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The city council in July approved a $237,000 contract to move 11,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Oakley basin to the former Corley Landfill.

The institute plans to plant a cover crop of cereal rye this fall, McMahon said, and the plant a mixture of grasses, including Indiangrass, big bluestems, switchgrass and a variety of forbs, in the spring.

The project will also reduce maintenance costs for the city, such as mowing. Keith Alexander, the city’s director of water management, hopes it will spark interest in learning out bioenergy grasses.

“It’s a nice positive project, and it’s a little experimental because we’re trying to get people interested in larger scale bioenergy crop production and find markets for that material, too,” he said.

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Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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