Urbana, Iowa — Scientists from the University of Iowa are conducting new mapping of the ground beneath our feet in the Middle Cedar Watershed. Yesterday, watershed stakeholders met in a rural area southwest of Urbana to catch a glimpse of the action and learn about the importance of geologic mapping for landowners, farmers, private industry, land use planners, and urban and rural community members. Phillip Kerr, a geologist with the Iowa Geological Survey (IGS) said, “This mapping is critical to our efforts to solve earth science problems — the information we collect will be used to address a variety of problems related to development, growing population needs, and the vulnerability of groundwater, as well as flood management.”
IGS geologists at the University of Iowa participate in the STATEMAP program, funded by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The program provides funding to states to conduct detailed geologic mapping with an emphasis on solving environmental issues. This type of mapping helps Iowans understand what’s beneath the Earth’s surface, and how local geology affects their day-to-day lives.
IGS researchers Ryan Clark and Matthew Streeter operate a drill rig that can bore a hole up to 50 feet deep to collect continuous soil cores. These allow us to study soil formations and changes, and how they relate to surface geology.
Besides providing vital information for landowners, agriculture and natural resource businesses, and researchers, this subsurface mapping also supports planning and construction activities for the $97M Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA), a statewide program focused on reducing flood risk in nine watersheds across Iowa, including the Middle Cedar Watershed. In 2013, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy identified the Middle Cedar as a priority watershed. In 2016, local residents formed the Middle Cedar Watershed Management Authority (WMA) to bring partners together to address watershed concerns. Areas of the Middle Cedar, especially near Vinton, are vulnerable to and at higher risk of flooding and groundwater variability. This mapping will aid in planning and land use decision-making for this area for flood management. In addition, it will help the IWA to identify priority areas for conservation best management practices, such as ponds and wetlands, with flood storage capabilities.
Funding is available for landowners in select areas of the watershed to construct a variety of conservation practices designed to reduce flooding and improve water quality. Participation in the IWA is entirely voluntary for landowners, who get a 90% cost share if they choose to build a conservation practice such as a farm pond on their property.