Podcast: Sick and Tired of Flooding

Check out this podcast developed by North Carolina League of Cities featuring Larry Weber and North Carolina Mayors Don Hardy and Bill Saffo on lessons learned from their trip to Iowa on flood resiliency.

Podcast: Sick and Tired of Flooding

Vinton Defining Flood Resilience

Fall 2019 Iowa Watershed Academy

By: Hilary Pierce, ISU Extension Outreach Specialist, hepierce@iastate.edu 

The fall 2019 Iowa Watershed Academy was held on October 22nd and 23rd at the ISU Field Extension Education Lab near Boone.

Attendees at Watershed AcademyGreat discussions were had during the academy and many questions were asked and answered. Experienced watershed coordinators and conservation professionals were able to share their personal experiences to guide those who were new to their projects. The academy also provided a setting where participants from all over the state could network and forge new connections with those who can provide expertise or support for their projects, as well as learn about what other projects are accomplishing.

The academy began with Jamie Benning, the Water Quality Program Manager at Iowa State University Extension, and Clare Lindahl, CEO of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, who facilitated a discussion and planning session on building and maintaining strong partnerships. The afternoon session focused on practice monitoring: Kent Heikens, National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment, showcased the techniques and instruments for monitoring saturated buffers, Natasha Hoover, ISU Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, discussed how to monitor bioreactors and Tony Seeman, Iowa Soybean Association, outlined field edge, tile drain and watershed monitoring processes used by ISA. The afternoon session also included information about new federal funding opportunities related to source water protection from Jon Hubbert, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service. The day wrapped up with Clare Lindahl sharing how failures can be stepping stones to success.

Attendees at Watershed AcademyDay two kicked off with a presentation from Jessie Brown, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, on how to use social media for effective outreach and partner connections. The following field session focused on the intersection between water quality and wildlife benefits of conservation practices. At the research farm’s bioreactor and restored oxbow attendees heard from Kay Stefanik, Assistant Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Adam Janke, ISU Extension Wildlife Specialist. Later, Jamie Benning and Chris Hiher, Pheasants Forever, talked about field borders, cover crops, and in-field management practices. Wrapping up the field tour, attendees visited a saturated buffer, which had been seeded with pollinator habitat, and heard from Tom Isenhart, Iowa State University, and Allie Rath, Pheasants Forever. After the field tour and lunch, attendees were guided through a planning session for the Regional Clean Water, Wildlife Habitat and Healthy Soil Workshop series to be held in 2020 where watershed coordinators will partner with NRCS, Pheasants Forever, and agricultural and conservation organizations to reach new farmers and landowners with conservation opportunities.

Learn more about the Iowa State University Extension Conservation Learning Group and the Iowa Watershed Academy.

Nish raingarden install

Nishnabotna River Watershed receives WQI Grant and Installs Raingardens with Youth

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Iowa Watershed Approach consults farmers, seeks volunteers


Storm Lake Pilot Tribune 12/10/2018 — The Iowa Watershed Approach Program is conferring with farmers and landowners, attempting to gather enough land to make conservation initiatives viable with about $2.5 million in grant money.

With the highest nitrate concentration of any stream of its size in North America, the North Raccoon River Watershed is the target of environmental initiatives designed to reduce flooding, soil loss and the flow of nutrients out of fields.

Landowners in the watershed may be eligible to receive up to 90 percent cost-sharing assistance.

“These will be competitive,” said departing Buena Vista County Supervisor Dale Arends. “There is only about $2.6 million available, and it’ll take three years to spend it.” It has already taken the
project about two years to get to this point.

A major part of the project’s goals include flood control and flood resilience. “Flood control is a bit of a new characterization of these projects as far as farmers are concerned,” Arends said.

Flood control goals include keeping water in detention for two to three days to drop the soil load and take nitrate out of the water. “We have to work together with our landowners and farmers,” said project coordinator Marius Agua. “They take all the risks.”

The project is still looking for volunteer landowners willing to commit to a project. After commitment through a non-binding agreement, those who volunteer for the program will be
ranked in order of desirability based on various factors. Landowners with higher proposed project costs will likely need to be willing to commit their land for a longer period of time to remain
competitive for grant funds.

After commitment, engineers will get involved to determine project costs. The 10 percent landowner share of the cost is locked in after the project estimate before it is let for bids, regardless of whether bids from construction companies come in higher or lower. Landowners can withdraw prior to construction, if they wish. Landowners will also be responsible for future maintenance costs.

“We’re not telling you what to do on your land,” said Alex Thornton, civil engineer for EOR, “we’re just here to work with you on what you want to do.”

EOR engineer Derek Lash emphasized the potential of the projects to farmers to maximize income from areas of land that aren’t farmable. “There’s a lot of neat things you can do with properties that are difficult to grow things on,” he said.

The initiative “will be a model for how we do things in the future,” said Marius Agua, project coordinator for the Iowa Watershed Approach. He said the goal is to get Iowans to work together to address factors that contribute to floods and nutrient flows with a critical stakeholder in the environmental protection strategy. “A watershed approach is an approach that is based on connectedness,” he said. “This is something I would like to trickle down into our consciousness and mindset.”

The cooperation of farmers with other stakeholders in urban areas downstream represents a major part of the task at hand, as farmers have differences in perspective and priorities. Through this project, Agua says that landowners and farmers can do something to improve water quality that downstream communities can’t necessarily reciprocate. “Once we store water upstream, it doesn’t matter how much,” said Agua. “We’re addressing one of the critical problems in the watershed, and that’s flooding of the next downstream community.” From here to Des Moines, about 90 members in counties, cities and conservation districts are all watching what happens in the counties bordering the North Raccoon, Arends said.


Find the full story here: Iowa Watershed Approach consults farmers, seeks volunteers — Storm Lake Pilot Tribune