Despite a rainy start to the day, nearly 60 people gathered for a bus tour of the Otter Creek Watershed in Northeast Iowa on June 8. Participants saw rural and urban conservation practices designed and installed to reduce flooding in the watershed.

The tour began and ended in West Union, Iowa, where downtown infrastructure has been upgraded to enhance stormwater management. This project includes more than four acres of permeable pavers for downtown streets and sidewalks placed over a bed of crushed stone. This system has the capacity to manage a hundred-year storm, with no discharge for rainfall events between 0.5–0.75 inches.


Bill Bennett, Turkey River WMA Board member and Otter Creek Watershed Landowner

The first stop of the morning was a large on-road structure east of West Union, one of five built in the Otter Creek Watershed as part of the recently completed Iowa Watersheds Project. This baffle-type installation on a roadway culvert impounds water upstream of the roadway, slowing runoff. Fayette County Engineer Joel D. Fantz told the group that this type of structure is a win-win for taxpayers, landowners, and residents of the county.

Next up, participants saw two farm ponds, which can reduce flood damage by storing water during high runoff periods. Ponds hold back floodwaters temporarily and release the water at a slower rate, lowering peak flood discharge downstream and supporting soil conservation efforts. Landowner and Turkey River Watershed Management Authority (WMA) board vice-chair Bill Bennett told the crowd, “If we can capture the water where it falls, we’ll be much better off.”

Downtown Elgin, set at the confluence of Otter Creek and the Turkey River, recently completed a downtown revitalization project that incorporated permeable pavers into parking areas on either side of the city’s main street. Two riparian wetlands also provide storage for stormwater runoff.


Rod Marlatt, Fayette CCB Director speaks about Rush Prairie Wildlife Sanctuary

After an amazing lunch at the Brick City Bar and Grill in Elgin (provided by Fehr Graham Engineering, Turkey River WMA, and the Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District), it was back on the bus for a ride to the Rush Prairie Wildlife Sanctuary near West Union. The 234-acre sanctuary includes almost 90 acres of native prairie, more than 40 acres of buffer strips, and 103 acres of tillable land. It has never been tiled and contains one of the largest remaining prairie parcels in Fayette County. The property provides wildlife habitat, botanical diversity, and water-quality benefits to the watershed.

Sponsors for the Otter Creek Watershed Tour included: Iowa Flood Center, Turkey River WMA, Fayette County Conservation Board, Fayette County Board of Supervisors, Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District, Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, Fehr Graham Engineering & Environmental, and Brick City Bar and Grill.

More photos of the Otter Creek Watershed Tour can be viewed on the Iowa Watershed Approach Facebook page.


E_W_NishLogoOakland, IA – The East and West Nishnabotna Watershed Coalition is hosting its final round of stakeholder meetings to gain additional input for creating watershed management and flood resiliency plans for the East and West Nishnabotna River Watersheds.

The East Nishnabotna stakeholders will meet on July 30, 2018 from 7-9 p.m. at ‘The Venue’ in Atlantic, IA (307 Walnut Street). The West Nishnabotna stakeholders will meet July 31, 2018 from 7-9 p.m. at the Classic Café in Malvern, IA (317 Main Street). The purpose of these meetings is to provide stakeholders an opportunity to help the planning team refine goals and objectives for the watershed management and flood resiliency plans, identify additional case study areas, and prioritize best management practices to address flooding and water quality. The stakeholder groups consist of local landowners, business owners, science professionals, citizens, and nonprofits. Members of the public are welcome to attend these meetings.

The watershed management and flood resiliency plans aim to identify solutions to reduce the impacts of flooding and improve water quality within the two watersheds. The two watersheds cover a 12-county area, which includes the following counties: Adair, Audubon, Carroll, Cass, Crawford, Fremont, Guthrie, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby. The plans, which are scheduled to be completed in March 2019, are voluntary in nature and guided by stakeholder input. Each plan will assist with future decision making and will lay out a roadmap to guide proactive implementation of flood mitigation and water quality improvement projects for the next five to 15 years.

Stakeholders are playing a vital role in shaping the future of these watersheds for years to come. The first round of stakeholder meetings occurred in April 2018 in Atlantic and Glenwood. The July 2018 meetings are the second and final stakeholder meetings before the planning team develop the plans. The draft plans will be shared with the public for review and input later this year at open house public meetings.

The planning efforts are taking place as part of the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA). The IWA is a statewide, five-year project, funded by a $96.6 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant. Leading the effort is the University of Iowa-based Iowa Flood Center and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Additional information can also be found on the project website at Locally, the project is being coordinated by the nonprofit Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D). The East and West Nishnabotna Watershed Coalition has retained JEO Consulting Group (JEO) to assist with developing these plans and facilitating public engagement.

For more information, contact Cara Marker-Morgan, Project Coordinator, at the Golden Hills RC&D at 712.482.3029 or by email at A copy of the stakeholder meeting agenda can be found at

On behalf of the Clear Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC) the East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) has posted a request for qualifications that could lead to a consulting services contract for the Clear Creek Stream Corridor an Floodplain Restoration: Assessment and Conceptual Plan.  The assessment and conceptual plan will be incorporated into the Clear Creek Watershed Management Plan being prepared by ECICOG in coordination with the CCWC and funded, in part, through the Iowa Watershed Approach.

To review the Request for Qualifications, please click here. For further information, please contact Jennifer Fencl via email at 

On behalf of Fremont County and Mills County, Iowa, the East and West Nishnabotna River Watershed Management Coalition (WMA) Board of Directors is requesting qualifications to provide engineering design and construction services to implement a watershed improvement project funded through the Iowa Watershed Approach.

To review the Request for Qualifications, please click here.  For further information, please contact Cara Morgan via email at

Landowners and residents in the Middle Cedar Watershed can learn about conservation practices that can improve their farming operations and communities, while minimizing flood impacts and enhancing water quality.

The state has incurred 951 federal flood-related disaster declarations over nearly three decades, slamming every county in Iowa.

Josh Stai, English River WMA Technician conducting a prescribed burn

In March, the English River WMA added to their staff, meet Josh Stai.  Josh will serve as the watershed technician for the English River WMA, and assist Jody Bailey (English River WMA Project Coordinator), with education, outreach, and development of public and private cost-share partnerships.  The English River WMA covers, Iowa, Johnson, Keokuk, Poweshiek and Washington Counties.

Josh’s education includes an Associate of Applied Science in Parks and Natural Resources from Kirkwood Community College and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management from Columbia Southern University.  His professional experiences includes employment with Kirkwood Community College as a natural resources specialist and as an adjunct instructor; multiple seasons with the Johnson County Conservation Board; and as a seasonal  Park Ranger at Coralville Lake.

Josh is married and has two wonderful teenage daughters, and they reside in Kalona, IA.


We caught up Josh to discuss his position:


Q: Where did you work before you took this position?

A: Kirkwood Community College – Conservation Grounds Worker/Adjunct Instructor

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in this position?

A: To spend as much of the grant cost share dollars as we can, by installing as many soil and water BMPs on the ground as possible!

Q: How did you hear about the opening and what was appealing about the position?

A: After interviewing for a position with a different agency, an individual on that interview panel encouraged me to apply for a new technician position that was going to be posted soon. Once I heard the job description of the new technician position, I became much more interested in the technician position because of the exciting opportunities that I could be involved with. It also made it easier to like the technician opportunity because the project’s office is located in my home town!

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell the English River WMA and IWA partners?

A: I am very excited to be apart of the ERWMA and looking forward to meeting all of you!

Q: What is a hobby of yours?

A: I really enjoy working on and restoring old muscle cars.

Q: What is the last book you read?

A: A Sand County Almanac

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Easily- Godfather’s taco pizza!

Q: Where would you like to go that you’ve never been?

A: I think it would be an amazing adventure to do a cultural history tour of Israel or Japan



IWA partner, Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, has a job opening for a Program Planner 3.

A full job description can be found here.

For farmers, timely information is vital. The Iowa Flood Center (IFC) at the University of Iowa is deploying new hydrologic stations that provide real-time weather information that farmers can use. The stations measure rainfall, wind speed and direction, and soil moisture and temperature. A shallow groundwater well also provides information about the water table. And the IFC makes all the data publicly available on the internet.

Father and son Stewart and Jared Maas farm about 1,800 acres 25 miles west of Iowa City. Their home farm is the site of one of the new IFC hydrologic stations. “We try to do everything the right way,” Jared explains, and data collected by the IFC hydro station can help. As Stewart and Jared prepare for spring 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.”

IIHR Research Engineer, Jim Niemeier, explains the data the hydro station collects

Besides providing vital information for agriculture, sensor data also support IFC activities for the $97M Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) statewide program focused on reducing flood risk in nine watersheds across Iowa. The Maas farm is in the Clear Creek Watershed, which is part of the IWA. John Rathbun, project coordinator for the Clear Creek Watershed, says that interest in the IWA is growing among landowners in the basin. “It’s really all about building relationships,” he explains. Participation in the IWA is entirely voluntary for landowners, and farmers get a 75% cost share if they choose to build a conservation practice such as a farm pond on their property.

With funding from the IWA, the IFC will deploy a network of 20 hydrologic stations this year. The new sensors represent an expansion of the IFC’s current network of nearly 50 similar rain gauge stations statewide. This growing network of hydrologic stations is helping the IFC reach its goal of 100 stations deployed in Iowa—one in each county. This network will help researchers and stakeholders better predict floods, assess droughts, and manage water resources. In addition, Iowa’s farmers can use the information to support their crop management systems and potentially boost yields.

The Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) online tool provides real-time information on watersheds, precipitation, and stream levels for more than 1,000 Iowa communities. Data collected from the hydrologic stations can be accessed at

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

Buena Vista County in Iowa is requesting proposals for watershed and flood resilience planning services to assist the North Raccoon River Watershed Management Coalition (NRRWMC) with a multi-level, FEMA-compliant, comprehensive watershed planning effort to address factors that contribute to flooding and water quality in the North Raccoon River Watershed.

To review the Request for Proposals, please click here.  For further information, please contact Marius Agua, North Raccoon River Watershed Coalition Project Coordinator at