The Nature Conservancy in Iowa is helping as part of a collaborative, on-the-ground approach in the Cedar River watershed in eastern Iowa. The Nature Conservancy recently leveraged $3 million in federal grants to improve water quality, reduce flood risk and decrease soil loss in that watershed upstream of Cedar Rapids.
USDA recently announced a $2 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant to the city of Cedar Rapids to launch a cooperative effort with the Nature Conservancy and more than a dozen entities to establish the Middle Cedar Partnership Project, or MCPP.
MCPP seeks to advance nutrient and flood reduction practices in targeted areas of the Middle Cedar Watershed, a 2,417 square mile portion of the larger Cedar River watershed in Benton, Tama and Black Hawk counties. The five-year project aims to increase implementation of conservation practices such as nutrient management, cover crops, bioreactors, saturated buffers and wetlands by more than 400 producers in the 135,000 acre area.
Goal is to use best available practices to improve water quality
"We are working collaboratively with partners in the basin, using the best available science to develop long-term, watershed-wide strategies to improve water quality, reduce flood risk and decrease soil loss," says Jan Glendening, state director for the Iowa Nature Conservancy. "It is essential we invest in on-the-ground solutions upstream that provide downstream benefits."
The conservancy's work with DuPont Pioneer to quantify the benefits of conservation practices for on-farm productivity and profitability as well as improved water quality and reduced flood risk for communities will be integrated into the efforts of the MCPP. The Conservancy and DuPont Pioneer will implement a campaign to communicate the value of these practices to farmers and local communities.
"As a member of the Cedar Rapids community, this project defines collaboration and will make significant improvements to water quality and flooding impacts locally and downstream," says Kathleen Aller, trustee for The Nature Conservancy in Iowa. "It has the potential to establish long-term cooperative relationships among farmers, ag companies, communities, utilities, government agencies and conservation groups."
Also supporting protection and restoration of wetlands
In addition to the RCPP grant, the Nature Conservancy recently worked with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other partners to leverage the Conservancy's purchase of two properties in the Lower Cedar Valley of Muscatine County into a $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act, or NAWCA, grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The NAWCA funding will support protection and restoration and of more than 1,150 acres of wetlands in the Cedar River upstream of Cedar Rapids. Protecting and restoring these lands will reduce flood risk, improve water quality, reduce water treatment costs, expand outdoor recreation opportunities and improve wildlife habitat. With this funding, the Conservancy will have assisted in protection of more than 1,300 acres of wetlands upstream of Cedar Rapids. These wetlands will provide 1.3 billion gallons of water storage, helping to mitigate flooding in communities like Cedar Rapids.
Resolution praises Iowa Nature Conservancy for its work
The Conservancy's efforts were endorsed by a January 14 resolution from the Linn County Board of Supervisors. The resolution praises the Conservancy for its work as a "catalyst" on flood risk reduction and improved water quality by significantly increasing water storage through wetland restorations.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. The Iowa program of The Nature Conservancy was established in 1963 and currently has more than 8,000 members. To learn more visit nature.org/iowa.