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.”


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