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

IowaErosionAmes, Iowa – The Daily Erosion Project, housed at the Iowa Water Center at Iowa State University, is now distributing Iowa Watershed Approach data to watersheds on USB drives.

Examining soil erosion is critical to the conservation planning process because soil erosion and water runoff are closely linked: water runoff fuels the occurrence of flooding throughout the state. Soil erosion and water runoff tend to degrade surface water quality and decreases land value. The Daily Erosion Project provides real time estimates of sheet and rill erosion so that conservation planners can use up-to-date information to address areas of concern at the HUC-12 watershed-level (approximately 36 square miles).

Data available on the USB drives are:

  • Maps of runoff and hillslope loss that occurred in 2017
  • Reports of 2008-2018 average and cumulative loss
  • Raster files of soil texture maps
  • .shp files of soil loss for ArcMap use
  • Fact sheets and publications

USB drives will be distributed at upcoming Watershed Management Authority meetings to the watershed coordinators and watershed planners. Project partners will receive a USB drive that contains data for all of the Iowa Watershed Approach watersheds.
Questions? Contact Hanna Bates,

URBANA, Iowa (KCRG) – What happens upstream of Cedar Rapids can make the flood protection along the Cedar River vary.

Farmers’ willingness to divert runoff from the river is also another key factor.

Determining the best location for drainage basins or new ponds to slow water runoff could get a boost from what’s called “geological mapping.”

On Thursday the Iowa Geological Survey demonstrated a truck-mounted drilling rig that can collect soil samples up to 50 feet deep in Urbana.

Knowing what’s underground can show what should or shouldn’t be built in the watershed upstream from Cedar Rapids.

“They have funding available to come out and do soil cores. It’s great data for research also our watershed project as well,” Adam Rodenberg, the Middle Cedar Watershed Coordinator said.

Rodenberg says grants are available to farmers to create natural solutions to hold back water and lessen flooding risks.

People who take advantage of the help from underground mapping could save up to 90 percent of the cost.


Watch the full news story on KCRG TV-9 News, “Geological mapping could help flood relief plans in the future”

Through the Iowa Watershed Approach statewide program, qualifying landowners can receive up to 90 percent cost-share assistance to implement small-scale flood mitigation practices.

Across the state, the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) is working with landowners and other stakeholders to implement watershed projects to reduce flooding and improve water quality. The program focuses on nine watersheds (Dubuque/Bee Branch, Upper Iowa, Upper Wapsi, Middle Cedar, English River, Clear Creek, East Nishnabotna, West Nishnabotna, and North Raccoon).

Participating IWA watersheds

Participating IWA watersheds

Local stakeholders and volunteer landowners within the qualifying areas will be considered for 90 percent cost-share assistance to implement in-field and edge-of-field conservation practices that offer flood reduction and water-quality improvement benefits. Eligible conservation practices include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Wetlands
  • Farm ponds
  • Stormwater detention basins
  • Terraces
  • Sediment detention basins
  • Floodplain restoration
  • Channel bank stabilization
  • Buffer strips
  • Saturated buffers
  • Perennial cover
  • Oxbow restoration
  • Bioreactors
  • Prairie STRIPS

The 90 percent cost share is a recent increase from the original 75 percent. The landowner will cover the remaining 10 percent or through local match. Conservation practices will meet all NRCS specifications and guidelines. For more information, contact Kate Giannini at or 319-335-5233

The IWA is a five-year project to minimize flood risk in Iowa that began in 2016. This approach builds upon other Iowa programs designed to reduce flooding and improve water quality, such as the Iowa Flood Mitigation Program and the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

The Iowa Watershed Approach is a $97M statewide program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The success of the IWA depends on collaborative partnerships among many statewide organizations and local stakeholders who together will carry out the work necessary to achieve the program goals. Partners include, but are not limited to: Iowa Economic Development Authority; Homeland Security and Emergency Management; University of Iowa; Iowa State University; University of Northern Iowa; Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; cities of Coralville, Dubuque, and Storm Lake; and many Iowa counties.

For more information, visit the IWA website at


As Iowans work to meet the goals set out in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the actions of individual landowners can make a big difference. One Iowa County farm family that has gone above and beyond for Iowa’s environment has recently been recognized for their efforts. Maas Farms near South Amana, operated by Stewart and Jared Maas, received the 2018 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award, presented at the Iowa State Fair. The award recognizes exemplary voluntary action to protect Iowa’s natural resources.

Father and son Stewart and Jared Maas farm about 1,800 acres 25 miles west of Iowa City. “We try to do everything the right way,” Jared explains.

Stewart and Jared Maas have worked extensively with the Iowa Flood Center and the Iowa Watershed Approach. Their home farm is the site of one of the IFC hydrologic stations, and data collected by the IFC hydro station can help. As Stewart and Jared prepare for fieldwork, they can check the online sensor data to learn when the soil is ready to plant, the best time for field applications, and how to plan for changing weather conditions.

“It helps a lot,” Stewart says. One example is the application of fertilizer in the fall. Farmers are encouraged to wait until soil temperatures are 50 degrees F or colder to limit nitrogen loss. Stewart and Jared now have facts on which to base their decisions — a real advantage for big operations like theirs. For Stewart and Jared, the data provide peace of mind that they’re doing things “the right way.”

Stewart has been working with University of Iowa researchers for years. “The university has been really good to us here,” Stewart says. “I’ve got a lot of respect for the hydrology department.”

“Farming doesn’t pay very well,” says Stewart. But, he adds, “It makes farming fun, getting involved in some of these things.”