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Howard County watershed improvement efforts drawing national attention

HOWARD COUNTY – Local efforts in Howard County to improve water quality are receiving national attention.

Through their partnership with local landowners, Howard SWCD has been able to use funding from the DNR and other partners to improve water quality throughout the county, stabilizing streambanks across multiple watersheds.

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) has featured the project on its blog, including work on Tim Huhe’s land to protect livestock and help reduce erosion. Huhe’s cattle grazed a pasture on his land that abutted a stream, but in some sections, the bank was eroded, undercut or destroyed. The cows would sometimes fall into the stream unaware, becoming injured or falling to their death. Howard Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) conducted surveys of the land and created designs for a streambank stabilization project on Huhe’s property. The district completed its work within a week after beginning construction and now uses this project as an example county-wide.

In 2018, NACD, in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded funds through their technical assistance grants program to Howard SWCD. Through these funds, the district was able to assist local landowners with planning, design, land surveys and implementation of streambank management. In Howard County, 11 projects have been selected for bank stabilization practices, totaling more than 6,000 feet of improved streambanks.

Since 2012, the DNR has helped fund a watershed improvement project on Silver Creek with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 319 program. The Iowa DNR has invested nearly $500,000 of EPA 319 grant funding to the project. Those funds, along with the work of local project staff with local farmers and landowners, have leveraged more than $3 million of clean water investments in these tributaries to one of Iowa's most popular paddling destinations, the Upper Iowa River.

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