More Iowa water-quality projects underway

State officials say progress is building

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey joins Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Gov. Terry Branstad at the administration's week
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey joins Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Gov. Terry Branstad at the administration’s weekly news conference Monday to announce new water-quality improvement projects in 12 Iowa urban areas. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad announced 12 new urban conservation projects Monday he and others said are examples of the kind of progress needed to develop best practices that ultimately will help improve the quality of Iowa’s water.

Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said the demonstration projects will receive $820,840 in state funding that will go along with nearly $1.18 million in matching funds, as well as other in-kind contributions. to support water quality improvement efforts.

The projects join 45 demonstrations — including 22 urban projects — already in place.

More than 150 organizations are participating in these projects, providing $25.28 million to accompany the $16.09 million in state funding going to these projects, Northey said. More than $340 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year.

“We have a lot of work to do but we have a very strong foundation that has been laid over the last several years. It’s important to take the next steps,” said Northey, who joined Branstad and Reynolds at a weekly news conference. “We’ve been building the base.”

All three held out hope the Legislature would commit additional investments to water-quality initiatives yet this session.

“We know this is a long-term problem that we need to address, and by having a growing source of funding, we think we can speed up the progress that’s being made,” Branstad said.

He has thrown his support behind an Iowa House plan that won bipartisan support last session that proposed to shift $478 million over 13 years to water quality projects from a water-metering tax and the gambling-funded state infrastructure account. There are bills dealing with water quality improvements eligible for consideration this year.

Also Monday, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, offered what he called a revenue-neutral approach to funding the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Fund approved by voters in 2010. The ballot measure called for devoting the first three-eighths of any new sales tax penny to funding the trust.

Kaufmann’s plan, called the Water, Infrastructure, Soil for our Economy water quality solution, seeks to increase Iowa’s sales tax by three-eighths of a percent over the next three years while offsetting the increase with an adjustment to the income tax filing threshold “by zeroing out the lowest tax brackets” proportionally to the increase in sales tax.

“This is a sensible, balanced approach to finally combat Iowa’s pervasive water quality issues while not raising the overall tax pie for Iowans,” Kaufmann said in a statement.

The bill requires a minimum 60 percent of trust fund dollars go to proven water quality solutions outlined in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, with annual reviews by the state auditor ensuring the dollars are going to the voluntary, non-regulatory compliance. No funds can be used for condemning property.

“This will put Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy into overdrive,” Kaufmann said. “The need is there. The desire to fix water quality exists. This provides the funding to get the job done.”

Here is a short summary of each of the new water-quality projects in Ankeny, Burlington, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Clive, Denison, Des Moines, Emmetsburg, Readlyn, Slater, Spencer, Urbandale, Windsor Heights and Waterloo.


Parkway Watershed in Prairie Trail – City of Ankeny

Grant award: $70,030

Total project: $140,062

Description: This project brings together local partners to build on stormwater management efforts within in the Prairie Trail area in Ankeny and will serve as a model for future installations of similar practices in community. Practices that will be installed as part of this project include a stormwater wetland, sediment forebay and native seeding in the Saylor Creek Watershed, which will be coupled with and education and outreach component to showcase the benefits of installation.


Implementing and Educating: Stormwater Management for Education Institutions in Black Hawk County (Cities of Waterloo and Cedar Falls) – Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District

Grant award: $105,500

Total project: $493,500

Description: This project will partner with three local educational institutions including Cedar Falls Community School District, Hawkeye Community College and the University of Northern Iowa to install stormwater management practices at respective campus locations and in alignment with the goals of providing educational opportunities focused on demonstrating project water quality benefits. Practices that will be installed as part of the project efforts will include multiple bioretention cells, native planting, and permeable pavement.


Tama Building Permeable Alley – City of Burlington

Grant award: $75,000

Total project: $191,650

Description: The City of Burlington will be installing a permeable alley for this project as part of downtown historic redevelopment project in a highly visible area. This project will serve as a catalyst for stormwater management and water quality project in the community and will provide a model for future efforts.


Infiltration Practices along 6th Street SW Corridor – City of Cedar Rapids

Grant award: $100,000

Total project: $206,600

Description: The City of Cedar Rapids has brought together a team of local partners to build on current stormwater management efforts underway in the community with the goal of promoting benefits of water volume control along with improved water quality. The practices that will be installed as part of this project consists of two bioretention cell systems which will treat and reduce stormwater volumes along the 6th street corridor area.


Clay County Fair Centennial Plaza (City of Spencer) – Clay County Fair Association

Grant award: $50,000

Total project: $100,000

Description: This project will support a strong local partnership group brought together to lead efforts in the development of the new Clay County Fairgrounds Centennial Plaza project by incorporation of urban conservation and educational components. This project will include installation a permeable pavers and bioretention cells along with education signage, outreach and demonstration components in a highly visible area to support local urban water quality improvement efforts.


Downtown Denison Urban Conservation Project – City of Denison

Grant award: $73,560

Total project: $147,120

Description: The City of Denison will be installing four bioretention cells and one permeable paver system in the downtown area as part of this project. This retrofit demonstration project will offer multiple water quality benefits, along with strong local support and community involvement, in a highly visible area with the goal of using this project as an example for future community infrastructure projects.


Five Island Lake Campground Urban Watershed Project – City of Emmetsburg

Grant award: $49,250

Total project: $98,500

Description: Five Island Lake has recently undergone extensive lake restoration activities and is transitioning to protection of their investment by also protecting the surrounding land. Project grant funds will be utilized to install multiple bioretention cells and native seeding as part of a former dredge silt site which has been repurposed into a new campground. These practices will blend into the new campground and showcase benefits of these practices to campers and park guests.


Fourmile Creek Watershed Project Sediment Basin Forebay and Stormwater Wetland – City of Des Moines and Fourmile Watershed Management Authority (WMA)

Grant award: $75,000

Total project: $150,000

Description: This project will coincide with the implementation goals of the Fourmile Creek Watershed Management Plan to improve water quality and includes two major components, a sediment basin forebay and a stormwater wetland. These practices will work together to reduce sediment and stormwater pollutants from entering Fourmile Creek Watershed and provide education and outreach opportunities to promote future projects in Fourmile Creek.


Walnut Creek WMA Project Implementation: Urbandale and Clive Nutrient Treatment/Flood Storage Wetlands (Cities of Urbandale and Clive) – The Nature Conservancy

Grant award: $45,000

Total project: $90,000

Description: This project will implement several stormwater wetlands which have been identified in the Clive Greenbelt and Walnut Creek WMA Master Plans. The wetlands targeted for construction will be accomplished through restoration of stream oxbows and will provide multiple benefits including nutrient reduction, flood storage and riparian habitat. Educational opportunities will be incorporated into the project with the goal of providing expanded opportunities for future similar installations.


City of Readlyn Urban WQI: Initial Steps toward a Large Scale Effort– City of Readlyn

Grant award: $70,000

Total project: $167,500

Description: This catalyst project will support a strong local partnership brought together with the common goal of building a stormwater quality management program within the City of Readlyn. This project will partner with the SRF Sponsored Projects Program to install a series of bioretention cells in an area of town which has been historically subject to large stormwater runoff volumes.


City of Slater Permeable Paver Project – City of Slater

Grant award: $100,000

Total project: $200,805

Description: This project will incorporate a permeable paver system and enhanced raingarden into the existing municipal city pool parking lot within Earl Grimm Park. This highly visible project will manage runoff and improve water quality in the headwaters of Fourmile Creek, which is directly adjacent to the planned project site.


Colby Water Quality Demonstration Park – City of Windsor Heights

Grant award: $7,500

Total project: $17,000

Description: The goal of this project is to create a water quality themed demonstration park within the city owned Colby Park. The City of Windsor Heights will be installing three stormwater management practices as part of this project including a rain garden, soil quality restoration, and native landscaping, which will serve to provide education and demonstration for a variety of public events.

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