Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A recent open house event held at the Kalona Brewing Company in Kalona, Iowa marked the completion of the planning phase for the English River Watershed Management Authority (WMA). Members of the public met with watershed staff, city officials, and project partners (i.e. the Iowa Flood Center and the Iowa Soybean Association) to celebrate accomplishing extensive research conducted over the course of nearly 2 years.

The WMA was formed in 2013 through a 28-E agreement between multiple cities, counties, and soil and water conservation districts in a rural, 600 square mile watershed area. In conjunction with City of Kalona leadership, Jody Bailey, Urban and Regional Planning Class of 2012, was hired as Watershed Coordinator in 2013 to guide the research and development of the plan and organize educational and outreach events with local property owners.

In the subsequent years, three University of Iowa planning students have contributed to the development of the watershed plan in a variety of ways. Vanessa Fixmer-Oraiz, Class of 2015, joined the WMA in 2014 to assist in drafting and implementing a landowner survey. This survey was critical in identifying future outreach and education priorities, which are featured in the plan. Prior to the completion of the plan, Vanessa also coordinated a field day, in partnership with the Women and Food Agriculture Network (WFAN), where women farmers gathered to discuss many of the alternative farming strategies recommended by the plan.

Liza Minor, also Class of 2015, provided the WMA with research for funding components of the “Guide to Urban and Stormwater Management” report, which is a key element of the watershed plan. And most recently, Ben Curtis, Class of 2016, joined the WMA to compile, design, and edit the watershed plan.

The Watershed Improvement and Resiliency Plan recommends strategies for improving water quality, mitigating the severity of flood events, and improving intergovernmental collaboration across multiple jurisdictions in southern Iowa. The WMA is currently seeking grant funding for implementation of best management practices for urban and rural areas throughout the watershed.

Photo courtesy of Dan Ehl.