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Farmers interested in Turkey River Watershed projects

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 05/13/2013 2:34 PM

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GUNDER —Ron McCartney wears several hats with the Turkey River Watershed Management Authority. He is WMA secretary/treasurer, a Clayton County supervisor, and he farms land impacted by Turkey River flooding.

"This is completely different than anything we've done in the past," said McCartney. "We've had a lot of water quality projects in this area, but this is the first time someone is taking a shot to see if it's possible to affect water flow. I hope what the Iowa Flood Center is attempting will work. Larry Weber with the Iowa Flood Center is one very smart dude, and he's the first to admit it might not. They want to see if slowing the amount of water from farmland and urban areas in the watershed can have an affect on devastating flows down river."

McCartney said that farmers are showing interest and communities are looking to get involved. Having access to more conservation cost-share dollars will be welcome.

"I've been on a waiting list for terrace cost share for years," McCartney said. "I wanted to do a project and finally went ahead and paid for 100 percent of it. If we get more help, we can do more conservation work. That's good use of government dollars."

Clayton and surrounding counties have spent millions of dollars repairing roads and bridges and assisting communities hard hit by flooding, McCartney said.

"If we can slow up the water and not have to use government dollars for that type of reconstruction or at least lessen the severity, that's a big deal."

McCartney farms land along the Turkey River.

"The last big flood did a number on us," he said. "I know exactly what it is to see a flood take away crop and destroy the land with it, and there were farms much worse than mine."

John Finley, district field manager with Iowa Corn, said Lora Friest with Northeast Iowa RC&D and the Turkey River Watershed Management Authority met with five corn grower members from Clayton County, and a larger meeting with Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek County members is planned once planting is completed.

"The idea is to give farmers and the WMA a better feeling about what everyone is thinking," Finley said. "It's going to take years to address these flooding issues, and the more heads the merrier."

McCartney said Finley, who is from Elkader, has done an excellent job of working with Friest to coordinate feedback between corn growers and the WMA.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," McCartney said of the TRWMA work to mitigate flooding. "If it works, it will be really exciting."