The government official who oversees water programs for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship was honored July 7 by Iowa State University. Dean Lemke, IDALS water resource bureau chief, was presented the Impact Award for Extraordinary Partnership by Wendy Wintersteen, endowed dean for Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
"Dean Lemke recognizes the importance of Iowa farmers producing food and fiber from our abundant soil and water resources, and the responsibility of doing so using sustainable methods," says Wintersteen. "While targeting his efforts towards agriculture, Dean maintains a balanced stance for all Iowans."
Lemke was recognized during the Iowa-Mississippi Farmer-to-Farmer Exchange. In late May a group of Iowa farmers and ag leaders traveled to Mississippi to participate in the first leg of the exchange. The exchange is focused on developing relationships between agricultural leaders in both states and promoting the sharing of information and technologies to address the water pollution problem posed by the hypoxic area that has formed in the Gulf of Mexico. As the second part of the exchange, the Iowa group hosted a delegation of farmers from Mississippi July 7-10.
Working to help solve hypoxia problems that result from runoff
Lemke is a member of the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, a five-state group of state agency personnel that oversees activities related to water quality and problems of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. The farmer-to-farmer exchange was a part of the task force's efforts. He also coordinates the activities of the Upper Mississippi River Sub-Basin Hypoxia Nutrient Committee.
Wintersteen says Lemke's balanced vision helps bridge urban and rural stakeholders in addressing issues that could cause conflict. "Dean works to find common ground upon which opposing views can jointly build working relationships," she adds. "He is a dedicated contributor to numerous projects that have helped link Iowa State research with producers."
Farm connections give practical perspective on water quality issues
In 2000, Dean Lemke began working with ISU researchers to develop the Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The program provides planning and financial support for the construction of nitrogen-removal wetlands that filter water from cropland. In addition to CREP, Lemke is the administrator responsible for another five IDALS programs related to watershed protection and water quality projects, including agricultural drainage well research and closure, and research funding for nutrient reduction strategies.
Lemke was the motivating force in re-establishing the Iowa Water Resources Research Institute at ISU, which has been renamed the Iowa Water Center. He has been actively involved in finding ways to link sound research with in-field application through numerous demonstration programs.
Born in Hampton in north-central Iowa, Lemke earned a bachelor's degree in ag engineering from ISU in 1972. Prior to joining the IDALS staff, he directed the livestock compliance efforts for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Lemke is a registered professional engineer. He also operates and manages family farms in north-central Iowa.