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DES MOINES — The efforts of Iowans in 2015 to improve Iowa’s lakes, rivers and streams have resulted in success stories across the state, and more efforts are underway for 2016. Working with groups statewide, including the Iowa DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program, Iowans are making changes on the land to improve our waters.
“Improving water quality draws interest across the state,” said DNR Director Chuck Gipp. “The success stories we are highlighting show what can be accomplished when local communities come together to improve water quality. Hopefully, the accomplishments that we showcase here will inspire others to do similar projects around the state and be our success stories of tomorrow.”
The DNR works with other state and federal agencies to help Iowans organize local and regional watershed improvement efforts by providing technical and financial assistance to create long-term, comprehensive plans. With watershed management plans, local groups work with landowners and residents to make changes on the land in areas that can make the largest impact on water quality.
For example, Lake Darling in southeast Iowa is a whole new lake – and park – following a four-year, $12 million renovation. The lake was drained, the dam replaced and the lake size restored to 305 acres. The silt trucked out from the lake would cover a football field 12 stories high.
This followed extensive work on the land by a large network of landowners and organizations coming together. Through a watershed project, they installed 162 conservation practices, from ponds and basins to terraces and soil-holding grasses, many stretching across property lines. The practices slow runoff from the land and filter out silt, nutrients and bacteria before they can reach the lake. With additional conservation work on state land, the practices have reduced the amount of sediment reaching the lake by 60 percent.
“Without landowners, we would not have any of this done,” commented watershed coordinator Stan Simmons. “Everything that happens up here is on land. It is owners cooperating with each other. Problems did not start at line fences. They did not stop at line fences. Many times, landowners had to work together to get problems solved. And we were very successful, in most instances.”
The Lake Darling story, as well as other success stories from 2015, are highlighted in “Working for Clean Water: 2015 Watershed Improvement Successes in Iowa,” a booklet available at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water-Quality/Watershed-Improvement/Watershed-Successes.
For more information on the DNR’s watershed improvement efforts, contact Steve Hopkins at 515-725-8390 or at Stephen.Hopkins@dnr.iowa.gov or visit www.iowadnr.gov/watershed.