116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The city of Cedar Rapids will receive about $7 million in funding through an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve water quality in the Cedar River.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service this week announced it has selected the city’s Cedar River Source Water Partnership project to receive the funding through the agency’s Regional Conservation Partnership Project, according to a news release.
The Cedar Rapids project is an extension of city efforts working upstream in agricultural areas to improve water quality conditions in the river — directly benefiting the city by improving drinking water quality, reducing flood flows and improving fish and wildlife habitat.
It is a collaboration among communities and agricultural partners to address water quality conditions that threaten public and private source water supplies. The project will support on-the-ground conservation practices on farmland and will give direct technical assistance to farmers and other agricultural producers.
Cedar Rapids, in collaboration with Charles City and 10 additional jurisdictional, agricultural and media partners, will lead the effort to connect cities in the Cedar River Watershed to their agricultural neighbors.
The project partners will provide an estimated $10.5 million in matching contributions, amounting to an anticipated total project investment exceeding $17.5 million.
Cedar Rapids expects it will provide at least $1.5 million in matching funds to the collaboration, largely in the form of technical support.
City Utilities Director Roy Hesemann said the city helped install water quality improvement practices with “demonstrable benefits” through the Middle Cedar Partnership Project, another USDA National Resources Conservation Service-funded collaboration led by Cedar Rapids.
That project, launched in 2015, focused on managing water quantity and improving water quality and soil health on 135,000 acres of the Middle Cedar River watershed in Black Hawk, Benton and Tama counties.
“The Cedar River Source Water Partnership will take what we learned from that project and scale up our efforts to improve water quality in the Cedar River,” Hesemann said in the news release.
This new project expands into the entire Cedar River Watershed and launches a new phase of public-private partnerships with Land O’ Lakes Truterra and agricultural retailers including Linn Coop, Heartland Coop, Landus and IAS.
“We are so proud for this opportunity to continue our work with producers and landowners upstream,” City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said. “Cedar Rapids has demonstrated experience leveraging (Regional Conservation Partnership Program) funding to build public-private partnerships and make marked water quality improvements.”
The city collaboration is part of a $330 million investment by the USDA in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. These efforts aim to address climate change, improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.
Most of the agency funds will directly help producers implement practices such as cover crops, wetlands, bioreactors and saturated buffers — practices proven to significantly reduce nitrate runoff from farm fields. These efforts also help the state reduce nitrate loading to the Mississippi River.
“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnership working at its best,” said Terry Cosby, acting chief for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “These new projects will harness the power of partnership to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”
The city’s Utilities Department will be the project lead with 11 contributing partners, with more being brought on in the coming months.
Those partners are Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Land O’ Lakes Truterra, city of Charles City, Linn County Conservation Board, The Nature Conservancy, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Ingredion, Iowa Future Farmers of America and iHeart Media / WHO Radio.
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