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Coordinated Effort Targeted to River and Stream Restoration

DES MOINES – A coordinated effort has been created within the Department of Natural Resources to work on river and stream restoration. 

“More than anything, coordinating our effort provides the framework to approach river restoration work in a much more cohesive and cooperative manner,” said Bill Ehm, administrator of the DNR’s Environmental Services Division. 

Ehm said the DNR alone has some 20 programs or bureaus working on improving rivers and streams ranging from flood plain management to stream gauge monitoring to fish and wildlife. 

“We have worked hard the last two years to coordinate all of the programs within DNR that work in in some way on river restoration. We have established a process that will allow us to work on river-related projects much more effectively and efficiently,” said Ehm. 

The Iowa Legislative Council authorized the creation of The Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee in 2013. The Committee was directed to consult with interested parties in considering options for restoring Iowa’s rivers and water ways. The Committee was also charged to develop recommendations for an initial plan to prioritize restoration projects, and provide defined goals and measurable improvements. 

Working with partners such as the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and county conservation boards, the strategy creates a roadmap for evaluating, protecting and enhancing the overall quality of Iowa’s rivers and streams as well as developing efforts to coordinate programs and efforts among various agencies and local groups.

“We needed to look no further than the success we have had with lakes restoration in Iowa to provide us with the inspiration to begin emulating that success with rivers and streams as well,” said Ehm.

“There have been studies that have shown the importance lakes have on our economy and quality of life. The bottom line is that we are even more of a river state,” said Ehm, pointing out that Iowa has more than 70,000 miles of streams. 

A major project currently underway to support river restoration projects is the use of an application known as Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN – CKAN will be an open-source data portal platform designed to easily share data. DNR will inventory pertinent DNR river-related data, whether in spreadsheets, databases or web applications for use with CKAN. DNR sees CKAN providing a standardized, consistent and pre-established framework for searching and accessing data important for a river restoration program. 

“Any successful restoration effort needs to start with data. Access to accurate data is key to making the right decisions and developing the best strategies for improving rivers and streams. This will allow everyone to access this information and for us to have all the pertinent data needed all in one place,” said Ehm. 

River restoration is a multi-dimensional process that yields an array of benefits, including improved water quality, more productive fish and wildlife habitat, enhanced recreational opportunities, and support for local economies. DNR aims to work with partner agencies, local communities, and other stakeholder groups to achieve restoration goals. The strategy outlines the priorities DNR will address to better evaluate and protect rivers, enhance the function and health of streams, and better connect people with their waters. 

Detailed information on the river restoration strategy can be found at: