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Advertisement Watershed projects discussed
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · June 1st, 2017

Whether you own a farm in Linn County or live in one of the communities, water resources, water purity and flooding impact all residents in some way. A presentation relevant to these issues was made at the May 22 meeting of the Linn County Conservation Board.

Antonio Arenas, Assistant Research Engineer at the IIHR, a unit of the University of Iowa's College of Engineering, gave facts, figures and possibilities for the conservation board to consider.

At present, a number of groups are working with the IIHR on specific project goals regarding watersheds across the state. Those goals include the following:

Maximizing soil water holding capacity from heavy precipitation,

Minimizing severe scour erosion and sand deposition during floods,

Managing water runoff in uplands under saturated soil conditions, and

Reducing and mitigating structural and nonstructural flood damage.

At the IIHR, students, faculty members and research engineers attempt to understand and manage Iowa's water resources. Other groups which participate include the Iowa Flood Center, established by the state legislature after the Flood of 2008. An Iowa Flood Information System is also part of the Flood Center's work.

The Iowa Geological Survey joined IIHR in 2014. It helps conduct research and provides service and outreach under contract with the Department of Natural Resources (Ia). It deals with Iowa geology in general, geophysics and hydrogeology, geologic mapping and groundwater modeling.

One of the maps Arenas displayed during the presentation showed current landform regions of Iowa. Another showed the watershed area which feeds into the Cedar River (north of Cedar Rapids), and he also provided a chart which tracked nitrates and nitrites in that area from May through October 2016.

Funding has come from HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to design and prepare projects which, it is hoped, will reduce flood damage in certain Iowa watersheds. The Cedar River is one of those.

Iowa was also a winner in a contest called the National Disaster Resilience Competition. It will receive $96,887,177 as a result of its proposed watershed approach - a program designed to sustain its valuable agricultural economy while protecting vulnerable residents and communities.

A number of watershed management authorities will be created and will conduct assessments, develop watershed plans, and creating pilot programs. Again, the Cedar River basin is one of those expected to benefit.

The various watershed authorities will use monitoring equipment to measure rainfall, water levels and nitrate/nitrite levels in streams, etc. They will determine actions based on data that will be collected.

One of the most important parts of implementing the plan is to engage landowners to construct projects on their own property. They will be encouraged to use a number of

practices, like the following ones:

Floodplain restoration or easements

Farm ponds


Buffer strips



Saturated buffers

Storm water detention basins

Sediment retention basins

Following the agency guidelines and specifications, landowners will receive financial assistance for their efforts. The landowner will foot 25 percent of the cost, while 75 percent will be funded by the assistance program.

Over time, the impact of the constructed projects will be evaluated, with the possibility for more projects on a larger scale in the future.

Arenas talked about a resilient community and what it should look like. He described it as having the ability to prepare and plan for, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse conditions.

Among the steps in doing this, a resilient community engages governments, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, businesses, and citizens to identify and manage risks together. The risks should be communicated clearly, and resilience should be measured and tracked.

Finally, lessons learned should be exchanged with other communities.

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