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Beaver Creek Watershed to receive $1.5 million grant for flood mitigation projects

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 06/20/2013 10:37 AM

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CHARLES CITY, Iowa —The Upper Cedar Watershed Management Improvement Authority board unanimously has approved the Beaver Creek Watershed flood mitigation proposal for a $1.5 million grant from the Iowa Flood Center.

The project was submitted by Floyd and Chickasaw counties, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the two counties and the city of Colwell.

The authority's executive committee heard three proposals May 15 and scored them based on a system the Upper Cedar board developed with guidance from the Iowa Flood Center.

Mitchell County submitted a proposal for the Rock Creek Watershed, which is mostly in Mitchell County with a sliver in Floyd County. The city of Plainfield offered a proposal for the Village of Plainfield-Cedar River Watershed, which is in Bremer, Butler, Floyd and Chickasaw counties. As other funding becomes available, these projects will be considered.

"This was a locally driven decision with a lot of discussion," said Mark Kuhn, chairman of the Upper Cedar Watershed Management Improvement Authority. "All three proposals were very worthy, and Rock Creek was very close in its score to Beaver Creek."

Dennis Sande, Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist in Floyd and Chickasaw counties, said Beaver Creek consists of 11,089 acres with 45 percent in Floyd and 55 percent in Chickasaw. Colwell is in the northwest part of the watershed, and Bassett is on the southern edge. Beaver Creek drains into the Little Cedar River, which is a tributary to the Upper Cedar River.

The 2008 flood caused an estimated $200,000 in flood-associated crop losses in the watershed, and $12,000 in damage to roads. As a headwaters' watershed, flooding in Beaver Creek has the potential to cause considerable downstream damage.

Other partners working in the watershed include the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Agricultural Research Service, Pheasants Forever, Trees Forever and the Floyd County Conservation Board.

Beaver Creek is part of the USDA-Mississippi River Basin Initiative. It's one of four watersheds in Floyd and Chickasaw counties that were selected to receive about $1.4 million in NRCS funding for conservation practices over four years, beginning in 2012. Additional support for MRBI efforts comes through a project agreement with the Iowa Soybean Association, which is offering education and outreach to MRBI/EQIP contract holders.

Beaver Creek was selected as a demonstration watershed for an Environmental Defense Fund-NRCS project to show the value of a watershed approach to solving local and regional water quality problems. Two of the first CREP nutrient removal wetlands in Floyd County were in Beaver Creek.

Floyd County is the fiscal agent for the grant, and watershed authority board members asked for quarterly progress reports.

Larry Weber, director of the University of Iowa's Hydroscience and Engineering — the parent organization of the Iowa Flood Center — said the work in Beaver Creek is a pilot project. The Iowa Flood Center will monitor the impact flood prevention projects have on flooding in the entire Upper Cedar River Watershed. Farm ponds, wetlands, gated outlet tiles and detention basins are all practices that could be part of the project.

Project administrators will solicit land owners and start design work in 2013 and 2014. Heavy construction will begin in 2014 and 2015. Weber hopes to finish monitoring work by mid 2017.

Kuhn announced that Floyd County will receive $175,000 from the Iowa Economic Development Authority on behalf of the Upper Cedar Watershed Management Improvement Authority to prepare a watershed plan. The work will be done by MSA Professional Services and the ISA with administrative assistance from Susan Judkins of KJWW Engineering Consultants.

"Flooding that is occurring throughout the Upper Cedar Watershed this spring, following a drought in 2012, is a reminder of the importance of our effort to assess and implement options for reducing flood risk and improving water quality in the watershed," Kuhn said.

"I congratulate all of you, you're playing a really big role in showing the rest of the state how this works," said Susan Judkins, who has assisted the Upper Cedar Watershed Management Improvement Authority since its earliest days.

Judkins was intergovernmental affairs director for the Rebuild Iowa Office following the 2008 floods.