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Five Island Lake Assoc.

Anatomy of a Watershed Project, The Planning Phase

By Staff | Oct 6, 2020

It is easy to understand the value of good water quality in Five Island Lake. Watershed projects, like the one happening at Five Island, are started because residents see this value. What fewer people see are the parts and pieces that go into these projects and make them successful.

The current project happening on Five Island Lake is actually a county wide effort which also includes Lost Island and Silver Lakes. This multi lake project is a partnership between the Palo Alto Soil and Water Conservation District, the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa DNR. The project is currently in its planning phase, which started a year ago and will conclude in April of 2021. The purpose of the planning phase is to produce a Watershed Management Plan or WMP for short. The WMP will combine local citizen input with conservation district and DNR priorities. Once completed the WMP is approved and funded by the EPA’s 319 water quality program. Funded programs usually last 5-10 years and offer additional cost share for conservation practices that benefit water quality. Examples of current and completed watershed projects and practices can be found online at cleanwateriowa.org

Five Island Lake is unique because some of the planning has already been completed. In 2018 FYRA Engineering wrote a management plan for the City of Emmetsburg and the Iowa DNR. The FYRA plan contains models that show what is happening in the lake and within the watershed. It breaks down where phosphorous is entering the lake and what activities contribute the most. Then it sets goal to reduce phosphorous and predicts some of the benefits the lake would see. Finally, it covers in detail the conservation practices and larger project necessary to meet these reduction goals. The full report is available on the City of Emmetsburg website Emmetsburg.com. While the entire report may seem complicated and daunting, a quick skim of at least the back half can be very beneficial.

The planning process, and the creation of a good Watershed Management Plan, is a critical step toward improving water quality. It will ensure that Five Island Lake will continue to be a valuable asset to the Emmetsburg community and the state of Iowa.