Government

Soil and Water Conservation Plan to address flooding, water quality in Linn County

Public welcome to give feedback during Linn Conservation District Board meeting Thursday

MARION — Linn County residents are invited to contribute their ideas to the creation of a five-year Soil and Water Resource Conservation Plan that could address water quality, flooding and soil preservation.

A public meeting this week, hosted by Linn Soil and Water Conservation District board, will give residents the opportunity to provide feedback that will inform the board’s developing goals.

“We are an agriculturally productive state, and having soil preserved for future generations ... is critically important,” said John Whitaker, executive director of the Conservation Districts of Iowa.

The Linn County meeting will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Lowe Park Arts and Environment Center, 4500 N. 10th St., Marion. The meeting will focus on input from a local working group.

A second meeting, during which there also will be a public comment period, is set for 7:30 a.m. March 3 at the NRCS Office, 891 62nd St., Marion.

Whitaker, who became executive director a year and a half ago, said he noticed plans were not up to date across the state, and made it a priority for each conservation district to have a plan in place by the end of 2021.

Whitaker said it’s “critically important” for residents to share their ideas and concerns with conservation commissioners, who are elected officials.

“If you look at Cedar Rapids and the flooding that has occurred on the river, if we were to increase soil health, we increase infiltration, and the water that does run off runs off more slowly and carries less nutrients,” Whitaker said. “Keeping nutrients in the field is beneficial to producers and downstream water consumers.”

The plans may set goals to create an awareness of the conservation districts’ efforts and why conservation is essential or stress the importance of cover crops and no-till or flood control.

Cover crops are important to incorporate in the new plans to help with soil erosion, which will in turn improve water quality and soil health, Whitaker said.

The plans also will include statistics about conservation districts, such what percentage the district is urban versus rural; what percentage is grass land; and acres of corn, soybeans and grain. Districts will strike a balance between conservation efforts in urban and rural areas, Whitaker said.

Linn Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner Laura Krouse said the five-year plans will give a statewide look at conservation needs.

Fifty people representing all areas of the community, including the Linn County supervisors, the Farm Bureau, Collins Aerospace and The Eastern Iowa Airport, were invited to the meeting Thursday.

Hopefully, Krouse said, those representatives can help identify what conservation efforts should be made over the next few years and who the Soil and Water Conservation can partner with.

For more information, contact Mary Hepker at 319-377-5960, Ext. 3 or email mary.hepker@ia.nacdnet.net.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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