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U.S. to spend $6 million on Iowa wetland restoration

The Iowa project will restore 1,020 acres in the North Raccoon River watershed

Low clouds drift over the pond and natural prairie at the Waterworks Prairie Park Tuesday, August 16, 2005 in Iowa City. (Sourcemedia Group)
Low clouds drift over the pond and natural prairie at the Waterworks Prairie Park Tuesday, August 16, 2005 in Iowa City. (Sourcemedia Group)

A $6 million Iowa wetland restoration project is included in a $32 million set of conservation projects announced Tuesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“We’re showing the country that voluntary conservation programs can work without compromising agricultural productivity,” Vilsack said.

The Iowa project, which will restore 1,020 acres in the North Raccoon River watershed, is in the Prairie Pothole Region in northwest Iowa. Vilsack said the Department of Natural Resources will be the sponsoring agency.

The program, run through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, enlists private landowners to help restore wetlands.

The projects, which encompass 14,000 acres in seven states, are part of the USDA’s ongoing Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, which began in 2010.

The Iowa wetland restoration will improve wildlife habitat and water quality while providing some relief from flooding in the Raccoon and Des Moines watersheds, Vilsack said.

The bulk of the spending announced Tuesday, $20 million, will go to restoration of hardwood bottomland along the Mississippi from Wickliff, Ky., to Baton Rouge, La.

The work will focus on acreage between the water’s edge and the levee — land that floods regularly and supports a variety of wildlife.

USDA regional conservationist Tom Christensen said the USDA will secure easements on the land and pay all or a substantial portion of the restoration costs.

The federal government’s cost per acre is about $2,300 when spread across the entire 14,000 acres. Its cost per acre for the Iowa project is about $5,900.“All of this has been designed to create a healthy outdoors,” Vilsack said, adding that pristine natural areas attract hikers, hunters, bird-watchers and others, helping boost local rural economies.

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