2018 Year in Review

2018 Year in Review

The Watersheds & Waterways Program Year in Review for 2018. It was a year full of continuing projects, new projects, and expansion of current projects. Our program has grown and will continue to grow in 2019. Check back for current programming on our website and social media!...
Read More
Nutrient loading is like… beer

Nutrient loading is like… beer

On June 14, Squaw Creek rose to flood stage.  On the same day, nitrate concentrations in Squaw Creek dropped from 11.8 mg/L to 2.7 mg/L.  Does that mean that June’s storm clouds had a silver lining for Iowa’s nutrient reduction efforts?  I'm afraid not. The nitrate concentration in a river is an important number if (like the Des Moines Water Works) you’re treating it for drinking water and need to stay below 10 mg/L. However, when it comes to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, the number that matters is the nitrate load that is sent downstream: the nitrate concentration in the water times the flow of water in the river. Not following me?  Ponder this analogy.  Nutrient loading is like beer.  I enjoy craft beer and have learned to pay close attention to the alcohol by volume number, which can range from 5% in a lager to 10% in an imperial IPA.  In order to avoid having my judgement impaired, I...
Read More

Soil as Sponges

Soils that are rich in organic matter act like sponges, soaking up heavy rains rather than allowing water to pond or run off the surface. By reducing runoff, healthy soils prevent sediment, nutrients, and other pollutants from washing into lakes and rivers. A spongy soil can also hang on to more water after the excess has drained, helping sustain crops through dry periods. Healthy soils can help reduce the negative effects of both floods and droughts, benefiting crops and downstream communities. Healthy soils can also be sponges for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with the potential to help prevent destructive climate change by storing more carbon in the form of organic matter. Find out how you can turn your soil into sponges: In Town On the Farm During construction, topsoil is often removed and remaining soils are compacted by heavy equipment.  Soils in a new development act more like concrete than sponges.  It can take decades for plant roots and freezing and thawing to reverse...
Read More
Spring, Where Art Thou?

Spring, Where Art Thou?

It's been two months since we last wrote. And were talking about Spring at that time! But Spring has taken its sweet time to get here. With snow lasting well into April, we might just jump ahead right into Summer. But we need Spring. It is an important step to transition from Winter to Summer. Although I am a huge fan of Summer, Spring has many good points we cannot overlook. We need this in-between time. Farmers might be rushed, but they need to plant their crops. The ground needs to warm up to be able to awaken seeds and dormant plants. Small producers and artisans, scrambling, will need to get ready for Farmers Markets. My house will thank me again this year as I spring clean and open the windows to let in the fresh air. Nothing like a cool spring breeze floating in. I enjoy the windows-open season no matter how short it might be before I take the plunge...
Read More
Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Springs into 2018

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Springs into 2018

It is finally March and with that comes the promise of Spring! The Byway is gearing up for a wonderful 2018. We are into grant writing season and as we wait for large state-wide projects to come to fruition, we are happy to tackle  smaller localized ones. One project just completed was for the community of Westside. The residents recently developed a park, the Eugene Kock Memorial Park, in honor of a local man who lost his life in Vietnam many years ago. The park has engraved paver bricks that can be purchased, seating for visitors, and a military sculpture placed in the center. The area is flanked by flags and soon will have an interpretive panel we created about the community placed there as well. We continue to work with the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) on other interpretive panels. Three smaller ones will be placed in the City of Jefferson's east entrance as part of their improvement project. The panels will...
Read More

Public input is essential for a watershed plan

Prairie Rivers of Iowa held three listening sessions this fall in Gilbert, on the Iowa State University campus, and in Story City.  Their purpose was to get ideas for the watershed management plan that we will be developing for Keigley Branch- South Skunk River Watershed, an area that includes the Skunk River Greenbelt and land that drains to Keigley Branch, Long Dick Creek, and Bear Creek in Story and Hamilton counties.  The 50 people that attended these sessions brainstormed responses to two questions. What goals or issues would you like to see addressed by the watershed management plan? What opportunities or strategies would make the plan successful? Their responses can be found here.  Some of the issues and strategies discussed were included in the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Plan and can easily be adapted for the Keigley-South Skunk Watershed.  Prairie Rivers and its partners have some experience with public education, watershed mapping, agricultural practices to control nutrients, and urban practices to control runoff, and...
Read More
Creek Signs in Story County

Creek Signs in Story County

What creek is that?  If you’re driving in Story County, you may not be able to tell.  With the exception of the Skunk River, the waterways are not marked with road signs, and your highway map or GPS unit probably aren’t much help either.  However, that’s about to change!  Story County Conservation and Prairie Rivers of Iowa will be working with the county engineer and the state Department of Transportation to put up signs labeling the creeks at bridges on county, state, and federal highways. Within the City of Ames, most bridges already have a sign labeled "Squaw Creek Watershed: for clean rivers and streams."  The city Public Works Department has been proactive about education and stormwater through its "Smart Watersheds" program.  If you live in Story City, Nevada, Maxwell, Slater, Roland, Cambridge, or Zearing and would like to see a creek sign in town, please contact dhaug@prrcd.org. Similar projects have been done in other parts of Iowa.  Watershed coordinators have found...
Read More
Gaining Momentum

Gaining Momentum

What drives a project forward? Is it the idea to create a project? Is it the motivation behind the project itself? Is it one person who acts as a project champion? Is it a group of people led by a dynamic individual? ...or something else? The driving force behind a project can vary depending on many factors. The goal of the Outdoor Learning Environments program at Prairie Rivers of Iowa is to bring those factors together and to support communities in developing an appreciation for the outdoors and community by creating or enhancing an outdoor learning space together. Expectations were unknown in originally creating and launching the Pilot Outdoor Learning Environment Grant Program in partnership with the Living Roadway Trust Fund. The first applicant inquiry came from Kate Zimmerman who is the Executive Director (and only full-time employee) of Ringgold County Conservation. She is also the only applicant to make it to the implementation phase in the first year of the grant...
Read More
Outdoor Learning Environments: Workshop Opportunities!

Outdoor Learning Environments: Workshop Opportunities!

Here are a few opportunities available to meet and learn about Outdoor Learning Environments November 18, 2017 10AM-12PM at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge 9981 Pacific St, Prairie City, IA 50228 Come and learn about Outdoor Learning Environments and how to get projects started in your community. There will also be a presentation from Patrick Bryant, People for Pollinators Coordinator at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge about prairie seed identification and cleaning. This workshop is kicking off a "DIY Prairie Garden Series" at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge that will take place on the second Saturday each month through July 2018. Make sure to come dressed prepared for the weather and being outdoors! Register for this event by emailing Annie Fangman at afangman@prrcd.org. Other Questions? Contact Patrick Bryant at patrick_bryant@fws.gov or 515-994-3402   November 30, 2017 1-3PM at the Dragoon Trace Nature Center Poe Hollow Park 2434 State Hwy 2 Mount Ayr, Iowa 50854 Join us at this workshop to experience the brand new Dragoon Trace Nature Center...
Read More