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Iowans celebrate water quality successes in annual review

Shell Rock River

DES MOINES — The efforts of Iowans to improve Iowa’s lakes, rivers and streams have resulted in success stories across the state, and a new publication is showcasing some of the most impressive efforts over the last decade, the Iowa DNR says.

Working with groups statewide, including the Iowa DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program, Iowans are making changes on the land to improve our waters.

“The success stories we highlight show what can be accomplished when local communities come together to improve water quality, and how they can continue to preserve the improvements made over the long term,” said DNR Director Chuck Gipp. “We hope that the accomplishments that we showcase here inspire others to take action in their own communities and be our success stories of tomorrow.”

Winnebago River in East Park

The DNR works with other state and federal agencies to help Iowans organize local and regional watershed improvement efforts by providing technical and financial assistance to create long-term, comprehensive plans. With watershed management plans, local groups work with landowners and residents to make changes on the land in areas that can make the largest impact on water quality.

Take for example the coldwater trout streams of northeast Iowa. Watershed projects on these famed streams over the last two decades have improved water quality, and in turn, wild trout populations, fishing and tourism. By changing the way water comes into trout streams, watershed projects have kept excess sediment, nutrients and bacteria out of the water.

Trout at Big Blue

Along with in-stream work by DNR fisheries staff to improve trout habitat, trout are thriving again. Take Coldwater Creek – in 1999, there were zero brown trout per mile. By 2002, there were 467 brown trout per mile and in 2011, that number rose to 2,128 per mile. In 1980, only six streams in Iowa sustained a trout population without stocking. In 2007, it grew to 32 streams and today, trout reproduce naturally on 45 Iowa streams, thanks to improvements. With cleaner water, trout can spawn naturally and better feed on aquatic insects, resulting in greater fish diversity. That’s a boon for anglers and local communities. Anglers have noticed, for sure. Trout stamp sales for both residents and non-residents hit an all-time high in 2015, at 45,472 licenses sold.

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