Government

Cost-share grants available for conservation projects

Meetings planned for landowners interested in watershed management

State Sen. Rob Hogg (center), D-Cedar Rapids, listens as Jason Auel (foreground), an Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist, gives a tour of the Big Marsh Wildlife Management Area outside of Parkersburg in October 2016 during the annual meeting of the Cedar River Watershed Coalition. The area includes wetlands to control the flow of heavy rainfall into the Cedar River’s west fork. A series of meetings will be held, starting today, on money available to help with conservation and watershed projects. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
State Sen. Rob Hogg (center), D-Cedar Rapids, listens as Jason Auel (foreground), an Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist, gives a tour of the Big Marsh Wildlife Management Area outside of Parkersburg in October 2016 during the annual meeting of the Cedar River Watershed Coalition. The area includes wetlands to control the flow of heavy rainfall into the Cedar River’s west fork. A series of meetings will be held, starting today, on money available to help with conservation and watershed projects. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Watershed protection advocates for the Cedar River and Morgan Creek are holding public meetings over the next several days as they look to tap into $97 million awarded to the state last year to accelerate flood reduction and water quality efforts in nine watersheds across the state in the next five years.

Planners are examining drainage areas and considering impact of future development on flooding and water quality. They’re also encouraging landowners to implement conservation practices, such as buffer strips, ponds and terraces.

While watersheds cover broad areas, these efforts are more narrowly focused to enhance the results, said Jennifer Ryan Fencl, solid waste and environmental services director for the East Central Iowa Council of Governments.

“Instead of tearing out and rebuilding places impacted by flooding, let’s make those places more resilient,” Fencl said.

The money was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the National Disaster Resilience Competition.

Approximately $8 million is available for flood protection and water quality practices for the Middle Cedar watershed — a large area anchored by Parkersburg, Waterloo, Center Point and Cedar Rapids.

Fencl said applications are being accepted, in hopes of starting projects later this year.

The upcoming meetings will help landowners in these areas understand what they can do and what resources are available, she said.

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A key incentive, she said, is a 75 percent cost-share grant for eligible practices, which is more generous than typical.

Upcoming events include:

l The spring 2018 Cedar River Watershed Coalition meeting, “Moving into the Future of Watershed Management:” 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the Wickiup Hill Learning Center, 10260 Morris Hills Rd., Toddville. The free event includes a tour of Wickiup Hill (at 11 a.m.), a panel discussion and speakers on watershed management and policy beginning at 1 p.m. The event offers networking opportunities, information and awareness about watershed issues.

l A Middle Cedar watershed landowner public information meeting targeting Benton, Buchanan, Marshall and Tama counties: 6 p.m. Monday at American Legion Post 57, 105 North R Ave., Vinton. Attendees can learn about which conservation practices are eligible for grants and how the Middle Cedar Watershed Management Authority can help.

l Public input planning meetings for the Morgan Creek watershed, which is part of the larger Middle Cedar watershed: 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and April 2 at the Cedar Hills Community Church, 6455 E Ave. NW, Cedar Rapids. The first session will focus on basics of watershed management and on feedback from urban and rural residents. The second will establish priorities and goals. Topics will include flood mitigation, water quality and recreation around Morgan Creek and Morgan Creek County Park near Palo.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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