FILE - Cedars Rapids Iowa

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

(The Center Square) – Three regional conservation projects in Iowa have received federal funding, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced Monday.

“There is great conservation work happening in the Floyd River watershed,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said in a May 17 news release. “The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has two demonstration projects underway, dedicated staff who provide technical support to the projects, and local farmers, landowners and partners who want to be involved. We’re able to leverage the state’s investments and our proven results to get additional federal dollars, which helps us make a greater impact on soil health and water quality in this priority watershed.”

Funding from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) will support the Floyd River Water Quality Partnership, the Cedar River Source Water Partnership Project and the Southeast Iowa Watershed Partnership.

The USDA NRCS RCPP awarded $3.2 million for the Floyd River Water Quality Partnership, which includes the Sioux and Plymouth Soil and Water Conservation Districts and is one of nine priority Hydrologic Unit Codes 8 watersheds in Iowa. The Floyd River watershed is an area of 577,000 acres, according to the release.

“Watershed coordinators from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Sioux and Plymouth Soil and Water Conservation Districts will work alongside farmers, landowners and input suppliers to incorporate in-field and edge-of-field practices, nutrient management strategies and conservation tillage to reduce soil and nutrient losses,” the release said.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will contribute an additional $3.36 million to support the expansion of the current projects in the region.

Federal funding of $7 million will support the Cedar River Source Water Partnership Project, which is a collaboration of the department, the city of Cedar Rapids and “other municipalities and agriculture partners.” The department will invest $8 million, and public-and-private partners will contribute $12.3 million.

“Cedar Rapids has been recognized nationally for our work to improve water quality,” Cedar Rapids Utilities Director Roy Hesemann said in a Cedar Rapids news release about the Cedar River project. “With the Middle Cedar Partnership Project, we helped install real water quality improvement practices with demonstrable benefits. The Cedar River Source Water Partnership will take what we learned from that project and scale up our efforts to improve water quality in the Cedar River.”

Most funds will support producers who will undertake conservation practices including cover crops, wetlands, bioreactors and saturated buffer “proven to significantly reduce” nitrate runoff from farm fields. The project will link cities in the Cedar River Watershed with vulnerable drinking water supplies to their agricultural neighbors to improve water quality in the Cedar River Watershed, reduce flood flows to downstream communities and improve fish and wildlife habitat, the release said.

The USDA NCRS has awarded the Southeast Iowa Watershed Partnership $6.4 million, according to NRCS project information. The partnership will receive $5 million from the department and $12.7 million from public-and-private partners, the department release said. This project, which will “accelerate the adoption of nutrient stewardship best practices” in 15 counties, covers 1.2 million acres of land near Cedar Creek, Lower Skunk River, South Skunk, Soap Creek, West Fork Crooked Creek and Long Creek.

More information about the project is available at CleanWaterIowa.org.

The NRCS selected 85 Regional Conservation Partnership Projects across the nation this year, for a total investment of $330 million, according to an April 26 news release. The projects are viewable here.