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Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship receives $1.15 million grant from EPA to fund Middle Cedar River wetland project

Main Street bridge in downtown Charles City at the Cedar River
DES MOINES, Iowa (July 2, 2019) – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has been selected for a $1.15 million cooperative agreement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Gulf of Mexico Program. The funding will be used to install up to six wetlands in targeted locations to improve water quality and habitat in the Middle Cedar River watershed. It is estimated this project will reduce downstream nitrogen loads by 58,000 pounds per year.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is partnering with the Cities of Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa State University, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation on this project to locate, promote, design and implement these wetlands.

“Working with the EPA and local communities, we are taking on the challenge of improving Iowa’s water quality by implementing conservation practices in priority watersheds,” said Naig. “Whether you live in the city or the country, we all have a role to play. These types of public-private partnerships and rural-urban projects are perfect examples of what we can accomplish when we all work together to achieve our common goal — preserving Iowa’s natural resources for the next generation.”

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and its partners are continuously investing in innovative water quality projects to ensure the most effective practices are used as implementation scales up. The Middle Cedar River project will build on past experience to incorporate new placement techniques that expand the number of locations where this practice can be installed.

“Receiving this grant is a testament to the quality of our ongoing work to improve water quality and quantity challenges in the Cedar River,” said Steve Hershner, Utilities Director for the City of Cedar Rapids. “Many partners have contributed to efforts which protect our source water. This additional agreement between the Department and the EPA toward our shared goals is an exciting new opportunity to advance this important work.”

In addition to reducing nitrate levels in Iowa and downstream, the wetlands enhance the local wildlife habitat. The area will be seeded with pollinator-friendly plants to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinator species.

The Department, municipalities and industry associations are in the process of identifying potential locations for the wetlands and are visiting with interested landowners. The first wetlands are expected to break ground in 2020.

The Middle Cedar River watershed project is part of the state’s ongoing Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS), a science and technology-based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to Iowa’s waters. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address these issues.

A total of 84 projects are located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. This includes nine planning and development projects, 13 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 55 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 320 organizations are participating in these projects. The state awarded these 84 projects over $29.5 million in funding. Private partners and landowners invested more than $49 million to support these project efforts.

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