This summer, seven new projects are projected to receive $5.4 million in grant assistance over the next three years from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, along with the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and landowners, to improve water quality in Iowa lakes and streams.
To recognize the broad partnerships that are helping to improve water quality across the state, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Richard Leopold last week attended an event at Union Grove Lake in Tama County.
"We've made a lot of progress in improving water quality in Iowa, but projects like Union Grove recognize that there's still more work to do," says Leopold. "Local involvement is the real key to making changes in our water quality. We're excited to work with Union Grove Lake and our other new watershed projects to help them build upon what's already been accomplished."
Working together, we can improve water
"This project at Union Grove and the others across the state show that when we work together to improve water quality, we can make an amazing difference," says Northey. "In Iowa we are committed to 'building a culture of conservation' that recognizes there is something everyone can do to protect water quality and these projects are great examples what some Iowans are doing."
The projects are a partnership between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship – Division of Soil Conservation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
In each case, the Soil and Water Conservation District works one-on-one with local landowners to make changes in the watershed - which is the land that drains to a lake, river or stream. Those changes can help keep pollutants like excess sediment, nutrients and bacteria out of Iowa's waters.
Funds target the "critical need" cases
The funds target the most critical needs and apply conservation measures. The measures can either be structural (sediment basins, terraces, grade stabilization structures, grassed waterways, pasture planting, etc.) or better management by land users (no-till, contouring, filter strips, grassed field borders, etc.).
The projected funding for these new watersheds over the next two to three years from the DNR, IDALS, NRCS and local sources include:
Union Grove Lake, Tama SWCD - $550,010
Nutting Creek, Fayette SWCD - $744,975
Walnut Creek, Poweshiek SWCD - $567,919
Prairie Creek, Clinton SWCD - $671,175
Prairie Rose, Shelby SWCD - $562,153
Rathbun Lake, Appanoose SWCD - $1,771,994
Littlefield Lake, Audubon SWCD - $540,002
These projects are just some of the more than 50 current watershed projects across the state that the three agencies have helped fund to date, says Northey.
Will build upon work already completed
The project at Union Grove Lake will build upon work already completed in the watershed. A wetland constructed by Jim and Lisa Umphrey filters the water from roughly 2,892 acres, or 41% of the watershed. This wetland prevents at least 1,121 tons of sediment per year from reaching Union Grove Lake. When combined with a sediment control structure in the southern part of the watershed, the wetland protects nearly 60% of the Union Grove Lake watershed. Additional watershed improvements will help protect future in-lake restoration investments that will continue to improve water quality, which can help the local economy. Union Grove Lake currently provides more than $2 million dollars of economic value to the area annually according to a study by Iowa State University's Center for Ag and Rural Development.
"The strength of these programs stems from the fact that they are cooperative efforts led by the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts' commissioners, who are elected to address the critical natural resource issues impacting their communities," says Northey. "I'm proud of the success they've had and greatly appreciate all the time and hard work they've invested to make these projects happen." "Watershed projects can benefit the entire community - people, wildlife, fish and plants - by improving not only water, but our soil and air as well. That can improve the quality of life, recreational opportunities and tourism in Iowa towns. Those improvements can also help us keep our young people in the state," adds Leopold.