Touring the Otter Creek Watershed

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 … read more

Watershed Scale, Not Field Scale

Watershed Scale, Not Field Scale

Watershed Management Authorities: Opening the Communication Line Between Cities and Farmers

Watershed Management Authorities: Opening the Communication Line Between Cities and Farmers

New app uses artificial intelligence to give people real live flood data

The Daily Erosion Project

The Daily Erosion Project (DEP) estimates precipitation, runoff, sheet and rill erosion, and hillslope delivery in near real time, on over 2000 watersheds in the Midwest (Figure 1). It does this by running the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model with a combination of remotely-sensed precipitation weather stations, remotely-sensed crop and residue cover, remotely-sensed topography, and soils databases.

It is an update and expansion to the Iowa Daily Erosion Project (Cruse et al., 2006) that is designed to further investigate large scale erosion dynamics while maintaining hillslope level input resolution. The DEP has a climate database extending from 2007  to the present day, enabling investigation of single event and single year runoff and soil erosion dynamics over a large time range and spatial extent.

Iowa Watersheds Project

In September 2016, the Iowa Watersheds Project ended with the completion of over 150 built structures including ponds, terraces, wetlands, water and sediment control basins, and on-road structures. The Iowa Flood Center received $4.5M from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the five-year project aimed at mitigating flood risk in select Iowa watersheds.

The specific goals of the project aimed to:

  •     Maximize soil water holding capacity from precipitation;
  •     Minimize severe soil erosion and sand deposition during floods;
  •     Manage water runoff in uplands under saturated soil moisture conditions;
  •     Reduce and mitigate structural and nonstructural flood damage

Phase I – Hydrologic Assessment

Hydrologic assessments were completed to further understand the hydrology, assess risk, and prepare a plan to minimize future losses in watershed participating in this study. The watersheds ranged in area from 500 to 1,500 square miles, representing Iowa’s varied topography, soils, and land use. The Iowa Flood Center developed HEC-HMS hydrologic models for each basin and ran simulations to understand the potential effectiveness of various hypothetical mitigation strategies.

The hydrologic assessments include a comparison of the water cycle across the watersheds and an analysis of hypothetical watershed scenarios that seek to reduce flood damages including changes to infiltration in the watershed and increased storage on the landscape.

Finalized Phase I Reports [pdf]

South Chequest Creek Hydrologic Assessment
Middle Raccoon River Hydrologic Assessment
Soap Creek Hydrologic Assessment
Turkey River Watershed Hydrologic Assessment
Upper Cedar River Watershed Hydrologic Assessment

Phase II – Construction of Projects

Watershed Management Authorities in each watershed selected pilot subwatersheds to construct and implement demonstration projects. Three HUC 12s were identified to receive funds for project construction.

The following subwatersheds were selected to receive $1.5M to fund the construction of small-scale flood mitigation projects:

A dense instrumentation network monitoring stream stage, precipitation, soil moisture, soil temperature, and water quality was deployed in each of the pilot watersheds to track watershed conditions.

Finalized Phase II Reports [pdf]

Beaver Creek Project Evaluation
South Chequest Creek Project Evaluation
Soap Creek Project Evaluation
Otter Creek Project Evaluation

As the Iowa Watersheds Project ended in the fall of 2016, the state of Iowa was awarded $96.9M for a new watershed project, The Iowa Watershed Approach. The IWA will work in nine new watersheds across the state and is built off the framework developed through the IWP. For more information, visit the IWA website here.

Turkey River Farmers Encouraged to Attend Profitability Workshop

Farmers and landowners in the Turkey River Watershed are invited to a farm profitability workshop on Friday, Feb. 24 from 8:00 a.m.-10:00 am at the Fayette County Fairgrounds Dance Pavilion in West Union.

As profit margins get tighter, farm profitability is more important than ever. Attendees will learn about profitability analysis as a way to evaluate and improve farm performance.

At the workshop, Dan Bahe, AgSolver precision business planning specialist, will explain the profitability analysis process and the basic information needed to get started.

“Profitability analysis is a great way to identify which areas of a field are high performing and which are low performing,” Bahe said. “Once farmers have this information, they can consider more profitable alternatives for each area.”

Additionally, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and the Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) will discuss an opportunity for farmers to participate in a confidential profitability analysis at a discounted price of 25 cents/acre.

Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m., with a catered breakfast served from 7:30-7:50 a.m. RSVP to Ross Evelsizer, Northeast Iowa RC&D watershed planner, at 563-864-7112 by Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The event is hosted by the Northeast Iowa RC&D, AgSolver and ISA. The profitability project is sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the National Fish and the Wildlife Foundation.

The Iowa Soybean Association ( develops policies and programs that help Iowa’s more than 38,000 soybean farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The association was founded in 1964 and is governed by an elected volunteer board of 22 farmers. It strives to be honest and transparent, fact-based and data driven and committed to environmental stewardship, collaborations and partnerships.

$100,000 Grant Received for Trail Project in Fayette County

October 20th, 2016

Fayette County Conservation has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Iowa Resource Enhancement and Protection, commonly referred to as REAP.

REAP invests in projects that enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources.  15% of REAP is set aside for grants to cities and counties for projects that help establish natural areas, and encourage outdoor recreation and resource management.

This grant was made possible through the Fayette County Conservation Board’s partnership with the Turkey River Recreational Corridor (TRRC) and Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D). The grant money will be used for expansion of the TRRC Trail from the City of Elgin to Gilbertson Conservation Education Area through the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Turkey River and a paved walking trail through the park complex.

This money will not only benefit Elgin and Fayette County residents, but also visitors to the TRRC.  It will create pedestrian and bicycle connections so residents and visitors can safely and comfortably move between Elgin and Gilbertson Park. This project is part of a larger initiative to develop, improve, and add to the Northeast Iowa trails system that will eventually span from Guttenberg and the Cassville Ferry to Lanesboro, Minnesota.
In its 27 years, REAP has benefited every county in Iowa by supporting over 15,000 projects. REAP has funded these projects with $250 million in state investments, leveraging two to three times the amount in private, local and federal dollars.  Collectively, these projects have improved the quality of life for all Iowans with better soil and water quality; added outdoor recreation opportunities; sustained economic development; enhanced knowledge and understanding of our ecological and environmental assets, and preservation of our cultural and historic treasures.
Local Contact is:     Rod Marlatt, Fayette County Conservation Director

Project helps farmers in the Turkey River Watershed boost their bottom-lines

With farming margins tighter than ever, farmers in the Turkey River Watershed can get help identifying areas of their operations dragging their bottom-line.

The Iowa Soybean Association, in conjunction with the Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), is leading a project in the Turkey River Watershed to offer farmers a confidential profitability analysis at a discounted price of 25 cents/acre.

“This assessment can help farmers identify areas that may be netting a financial loss,” said Adam Kiel, ISA operations manager of water resources. “Once the analysis is done, we can discuss how to implement alternative, more profitable practices for each individual farm.”

Often, areas of a field resulting in net loss are the most environmentally sensitive and have a negative impact on water quality and soil health. The analysis provided in this project will demonstrate where conservation practices could be placed and how implementation may benefit the bottom line, either by generating income or reducing loss.

Initially, farmers will work with the Northeast Iowa RC&D, to gather needed information — yield, management and input cost data. Then, ISA will perform the analysis for each farm categorizing acres into three zones: high performing, reasonably performing and nonperforming. Combined, these acres generate the overall picture of the farm and help farmers identify ways to optimize profit. ISA will follow-up with an on-farm consultation allowing farmers to discuss alternative practices that may be more profitable and methods for implementing those practices.

“The project allows us to assess 4,000 acres in the Turkey River Watershed — first come, first serve,” said Ross Evelsizer, watershed planner with the Northeast Iowa RC&D. “We are enrolling farmers now to begin profitability analysis this summer.”

In addition to profitability analysis, area farmers may participate in complementary conservation planning provided by the ISA.

The project is sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the National Fish and the Wildlife Foundation.

For more information or to participate in profitability analysis, farmers can contact Evelsizer at 563-864-7112 or Kiel at 515-334-1022.


The Iowa Soybean Association ( develops policies and programs that help Iowa’s more than 36,000 soybean farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The association was founded in 1964 and is governed by an elected volunteer board of 21 farmers. It strives to be honest and transparent, fact-based and data driven and committed to environmental stewardship, collaborations and partnerships.

WMAs – Why County Supervisors Should Be Involved

WMAs – Why Supervisors Should Be Involved and Enthusiastic (PDF)


Watershed Wednesday: Learning from watershed neighbors

IFC helps bring $96.8M to Iowa for new watershed project

Originally appeared in The Gazette, 1/21/2016 by ORLAN LOVE

Iowa flood efforts win big boost

U.S. awards $97 million to improve resiliency from disasters Iowa got a $97 million boost Thursday in its efforts to make the state more resilient to flooding and to reduce nutrient pollution. “This is a big deal,” said Ben Hammes, spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, who along with other state and federal officials will disclose details of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant at a news conference Friday in Des Moines. Iowa will receive $96,887,177 in National Disaster Resilience Competition funding to support the Iowa Watershed Approach, a holistic watershed-scale program designed to sustain the state’s farm economy while protecting vulnerable communities from flooding and water pollution. “ … Iowa’s modern agriculture landscape has altered the movement of water within the state’s watersheds and reduced the land’s natural resiliency, which impacts peak water flows, flooding, and water quality, especially during extreme weather events,” reads an application for the grant. HUD funding will enable several watersheds to form Watershed Management Authorities, which will develop assessments and plans and implement pilot conservation projects. The grant also will target funding to Dubuque to make homes less vulnerable to periodic flooding along Bee Creek. Hammes said Iowa’s leadership in establishing the Iowa Flood Center and in initiating its Nutrient Reduction Strategy were “big factors” in its prevailing in the competition with 39 other finalists. The expertise and leadership developed through the flood center, established by the Legislature after the devastating 2008 floods, and the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Program, initiated in 2013, “allowed us to be successful in the grant competition,” said Larry Weber, director of the Iowa Flood Center, which helped draft the application. The HUD grant, combined with recent increased conservation allocations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and proposals to increase state conservation funding, may signal a turning point in efforts to adequately fund Iowa projects for limiting flood damage and nutrient pollution, Hammes said. Iowa does seem to have help coming from multiple directions, Weber said. With funding going to both cities and agricultural areas, “we hope it will decrease tension and encourage cooperation” between rural and urban sectors that have been divided by the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit against northwest Iowa tile drainage districts, Hammes said. Iowa is among eight states and five cities awarded a combined $1 billion through the federal program. Iowa’s grant was the fourth highest, topped by $176 million to New York City, $140 million to New Orleans and $121 million to Virginia. Grant details will be announced at the Capitol at 1 p.m. Friday by Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, who will discuss efforts to help accelerate flood reduction and water quality efforts in key watersheds around the state. Several Eastern Iowa counties — including Iowa, Johnson, Winneshiek, Allamakee, Buchanan, Delaware and Tama — were targeted for resources in the state’s grant application. Those counties experienced excessive losses of topsoil due to disasters, the application said, which led to more sediment and nutrient pollution seeping into waterways. “Because topsoil takes generations to regenerate, the loss of this resource can be considered permanent as the needs of continued production outstrip nature’s ability to replenish the soil,” the application said. Citing long-term data showing increased heavy precipitation and flooding, the state’s application advocates the Iowa Watershed Approach, designed to reduce flood risk, improve water quality, increase resilience, engage stakeholders and improve quality of life and health through a scalable and replicable program.