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Sixteen Iowa urban water quality projects awarded $2.8 million
Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Center Point among recipients of grants
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is investing nearly $2.8 million in 16 urban water quality projects across the state, including in Linn and Johnson counties.
The funding comes from the Iowa Water Quality Initiative and the Conservation Infrastructure Program, both of which work toward implementing the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The ag department will use the money to provide cost-share grants that cover up to 50 percent of the costs of each project.
To receive state funding, the projects must include education and outreach components that raise awareness about stormwater management methods and encourage others to adopt similar infrastructure-based practices to improve water quality.
Projects in Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Center Point are among the 16 awarded funds.
“Whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural area, all Iowans have an important role in protecting and improving our state’s water quality,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig in a statement last week. “These urban cost-share grants help to leverage significant water quality investment by communities of all sizes.”
Cedar Rapids received $150,000 for a new 10-plus-acre wetland in an existing detention basin on the south side of E Avenue NW between Edgewood Road and 28th Street NW.
The basin captures pollutants typical in urban watersheds and reduces flash flooding downstream in the E Avenue watershed. The wetland will treat part of the drainage area and provide water quality and natural habitat benefits to the basin. In addition, the existing detention basin will be renovated to help reduce flood risk.
“This project will focus mostly on giving the existing detention basin an ‘ecological uplift’ or recovering the ecosystem that has been disturbed by the environment,” said City Engineer Ken DeKeyser in an email.
The estimated total cost of the project is $2.6 million. The state grant is contingent on Cedar Rapids receiving a hazard mitigation assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides funding for eligible mitigation measures that reduce disaster losses.
“If awarded, we anticipate construction to begin later this year or early 2024,” DeKeyser said. “Weather permitting, we anticipate the project to be completed by spring 2025.”
The project is part of the city’s stormwater master plan, which redirects runoff to waterways to reduce flood risks, property damage and loss of life, and for maintaining and improving water quality.
Coralville received $15,000 for an “opportunity zone” that will restore soil quality and improve the infiltration of water into residents’ lawns. The project also will reduce runoff and expand the use of water quality practices to additional areas in the city.
The plan is part of the city’s Green Infrastructure Equality Project, an educational campaign and full cost reimbursement for implementation of soil quality restoration practices in the project area south of Interstate 80. This area is home to many lower-income and minority residents, and it has a higher occurrence of localized flash flooding, according to the city.
Staff members recognized there were areas of the community where minimal or no green infrastructure was installed. The areas overlapped with parts where lower-income and underserved populations live.
“This is thought to be the first program in Iowa to address barriers to installing green infrastructure within lower-income or minoritized populations,” Amy Foster, the city’s stormwater coordinator, wrote in a memo to the Coralville City Council.
The education campaign within the area will focus on informing residents about water resource concerns and how to improve local water quality in neighborhood streams and the Iowa River. The other goal of the project is to install 30 soil quality restoration practices in qualifying lawns in the area at no cost to residents, which will be installed both this year and next year.
The estimated project cost is $60,000, with the city contributing $15,000. The city also received $30,000 from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, The Gazette reported in March.
Center Point, which is north of Cedar Rapids, received $350,000 for a new 3.8-acre wetland along Mustang Lane. The funding complements money from the State Revolving Fund, together covering the costs of the $1.2 million project.
The project was planned when the city’s new wastewater treatment facility was approved in 2021, said City Administrator Joseph Taylor.
The wetland, along with nearby water retention basins in Fross Park, will catch runoff and naturally filter it with native plant species and grasses. Then, the water will slowly disperse into the Blue Creek Watershed and eventually the Cedar River.
“This will have a positive benefit with the obvious, which is cleaner runoff. But also, cleaner runoff means less cost and time to treat the water as it is recirculated through the environment and eventually back through people’s faucets,” Taylor said in an email. Center Point draws its water supplies from aquifers.
Construction will start with the excavation and relocation of the earth where the wetland will be. Native plants will be planted after the initial construction is completed.
“We should see earth moving very soon,” Taylor said.
Brittney J. Miller is the Energy & Environment Reporter for The Gazette and a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.
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