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SWCD Receives Grant To Assess Lost Island Watershed

By Staff | Jul 22, 2010

GRANT FUNDS -- Palo Alto Soil and?Water Conservation District received $14,900 for assessment of the Lost Island Watershed. Joel Horsley (left) accepted the check on behalf of the Palo Alto Soil and?Water Conservation District, from Chuck Gipp, Director of IDALS Division of Soil Conservation. --Jane Whitmore photo

Watershed protection projects reduce soil erosion, protect or enhance water quality, provide flood control, and protect other natural resources. The watershed approach continues to be the most comprehensive, efficient and effective method of resource management.

The Watershed Protection Program was enacted in 1999 to provide technical and financial assistance for the development and implementation of local watershed  initiatives.

Five years ago the Palo Alto Soil and Water Conservation District became pro-active in providing leadership addressing water quality in the five natural lakes sprinkled throughout Palo Alto County.

“To date, we have assessed two watersheds utilizing a total of $20,000 in Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) grants,” said Joel Horsley, commissioner with Palo Alto Soil and Water Conservation District. “The Silver Lake watershed is entering its fifth and final year.”

The third watershed project is about to begin. Assessment of the Lost Island Watershed is slated to run through March 2011.

“After the assessment, we may apply for further funding to help ag producers and residents achieve necessary goals regarding the water quality of Lost Island,” said Horsley.

Chuck Gipp, Director of IDALS Division of Soil Conservation, presented the check in the amount of $14,900.

“We are concerned about water quality,” said Gipp. “Property owners are the key people. We are here to help you. This is a valuable piece of property, a valuable resource that needs protecting.”

“On behalf of the Soil and Water Conservation District, we are pleased to be given this important grant,” said Horsley. “We will use this Lost Island grant to define some of the natural resource challenges we face in both Palo Alto and Clay Counties and come up with the best plan to improve and protect our soil and water resources. Thank you very much for your support.”

Don Hagen talked about the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Water Monitoring grant. He said the grant of $7125 will complete up to 57 water samples, in addition to six storm events.

“We are taking samples at the beginning of Blue Wing Marsh and at the exit of Blue Wing Marsh, as it goes into the lake,” Hagen explained. “Knowing the quality of the water and the source of pollution, we will have a better project.”

Jim Neighbors, a member of the Lost Island Protective Association, said this is an exciting time for Northwest Iowa.

“We talk about the finances involved and the long term results. The economic impact of something like this is immeasurable,” Neighbors said. “Had we not had the foresight for a sewer project, we wouldn’t be here tonight. We have a project that is immeasurable for soil, water and agriculture.”

“The DNR is dealing with in-lake issues and the NRCS is working on the outside, things going into the lake,” said Jeremy Thilges, Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Nutrients and sediment are coming off the land and into the lake. With the assessment, landowners and tenants will be interviewed. We need input to learn the answers to learn the answers and define the problems.”

Thilges said there will be urban meetings to discuss rain gardens and other means to protect the shoreline. There will also be meetings with ag land owners to see what their problems are. Water sample assessments will help define problems and areas to target. It will take roughly one year to complete the project.

“I have worked here a long time,” said Steve Pitt, Director of the Palo Alto County Conservation Board. “Before the sewer, septics were going directly into the lake. We have worked with the Soil and Water Conservation District on environmental education. With everybody working together, we will end up with good results. We are working together to obtain the common goal of water quality.”

Anyone with questions about the assessment of the Lost Island Watershed should contact Don Hagen, project coordinator, at the District Office in the USDA Service Center in Emmetsburg.