The good, the bad, and the ugly of the South Skunk River

How do we reconcile good recreation with poor water quality?  How can we work together to improve water quality in the South Skunk River?  These are some questions I hope you will discuss with me at McFarland Park this Friday (Feb 9) at 5:30PM The good: paddling!  The portion of the South Skunk River that flows through Story County* will be dedicated as a water trail this year.  Story County is lucky to have a river with so many acres of protected natural areas and with such well-marked public access points.  A lot of work over the years by a lot of dedicated conservationists has made that possible. The bad: water quality!  This stretch of the South Skunk is on the impaired waters list due to high levels of E.coli bacteria, an indicator for fecal contamination. The ugly: rivers in the rest of the state aren’t any better. There are over 400 river/stream segments on the Iowa Impaired Waters List due to E...
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SQUAW CREEK WATER QUALITY INITIATIVE: 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW

SQUAW CREEK WATER QUALITY INITIATIVE: 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW

(AMES, IOWA) – In 2017, the Watersheds and Waterways team at Prairie Rivers of Iowa partnered with 23 local and state-wide partners to accomplish a number of events and initiatives. “I am thrilled with Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s success in the Squaw Creek Watershed in 2017. It has been so successful thanks to our wonderful partners and collaborators.” Kayla Bergman, Watershed Coordinator at Prairie Rivers of Iowa. "We look forward to continue working in Squaw Creek Watershed and reporting annually on our progress." Practices funded: Through the Squaw Creek cost-share dollars allotted from the state, Prairie Rivers of Iowa assisted producers with the implementation of conservation practices. Fourteen producers located throughout the four counties in the watershed received funding to plant 1,630 acres of cover crops. Another 1,060 acres of strip-till and no-till were installed for two local producers, and one denitrifying bioreactor was installed on a farm in Boone County. Field days: Prairie Rivers of Iowa hosted four field days in 2017, reaching a total...
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Denitrifying Bioreactor Installed in Squaw Creek Watershed

Denitrifying Bioreactor Installed in Squaw Creek Watershed

On November 10, a denitrifying bioreactor was installed in the Squaw Creek Watershed. This practice is put into place to intercept the field tile line in order to run the water through a pit of woodchips. The woodchips act as a carbon source for denitrifying bacteria, which convert the nitrate in the water to N2 gas. The landowners, two Boone County residents, approached Prairie Rivers of Iowa in 2016 with interest in doing their part to protect water quality in the Squaw Creek Watershed and the larger South Skunk River Watershed. We utilized cost-share through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (designated for our Squaw Creek Watershed project), as well as cost-share through the local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office to help offset the financial investment the landowners made. The denitrifying bioreactor was designed by ISG Engineering out of Storm Lake, IA. The consultant on the project was Central Iowa Dirt and Demo out of Kamrar, IA. Both partners provided...
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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...
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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...
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Thanksgiving Season On the Byway

Thanksgiving Season On the Byway

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am reflecting on the past 3 years I've worked at Prairie Rivers and with the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway (LHHB.) I am thankful for the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) and their vision to create and promote the road in 1913 and for the Iowa leaders who re-created theorganization in 1992,  to those Iowa LHA people who applied for the Iowa section to be part of the Iowa Scenic Byway program, to the Department of Transportation for including the Lincoln Highway in their Byway program and the support they continue to give to the Byways, and to the people in the communities along the route who work tirelessly to promote and support their neck-of-the-woods with their products, services, amenities, and attractions. A few weeks ago, I drove a part of the Byway and saw farmers out harvesting their crops. Dust was flying, wagons were being filled with crops, and slow-moving vehicles with equipment and wagons slowed...
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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...
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Upcoming Listening Session for Keigley Watershed

Upcoming Listening Session for Keigley Watershed

Listening Session for Keigley Branch-South Skunk River Watershed Management Plan Monday, October 23, 6-7PM Franklin Community Room, Gilbert City Hall Monday night will be our first of several opportunities to get some public input for our next watershed management plan, for an area that includes Keigley Branch, Bear Creek, and the Skunk River greenbelt.  With the harvest under way, you might question my timing—and to be sure, we will be scheduling listening sessions during the winter to reach farmers—but it happened to be an open night on the Gilbert High School calendar and I’m excited to have some Gilbert High students joining us. Mrs. Rinehart’s 10th grade biology students have been getting their feet wet in College Creek and Keigley Branch, collecting water bugs—sorry, sampling benthic macroinvertebrates.  I’ve met with them three times to help them make the connection between land management in the watershed, water quality in the stream, and the biodiversity in the stream.  Now they’re working on a project to research a...
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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...
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