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Led by the City of Cedar Rapids, the Middle Cedar Partnership Project (MCPP) focuses on working with local conservation partners, farmers and landowners to install best management practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands and saturated buffers to help improve water quality, water quantity and soil health in the Cedar River Watershed. There is an urgent need to address increasing concentrations of nitrates and extreme flood events in the Cedar River. This project will lay the foundation for needed improvements, and bring together a diverse group of conservation partners.

Perspectives on the Middle Cedar Partnership Project

Jason Gomes

Nick Meier

Mitch Wieben


Program Area

The Middle Cedar Partnership Project is specifically working to increase the implementation of nutrient and flood reduction practices in targeted areas of the Middle Cedar watershed, a 2,417 square mile watershed, which is part of the larger Cedar River watershed. Cedar Rapids draws its drinking water from shallow alluvial wells along the Cedar River. The Middle Cedar watershed also contains multiple communities that have experienced considerable flood damage and associated economic impacts.

The project is working in five HUC 12 watersheds located in Benton, Tama, and Black Hawk Counties. The five watersheds total 135,000 acres. The Middle Cedar watershed is designated as one of nine priority watersheds by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council (IWRCC) under the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, due to its annual average levels of nitrogen and phosphorus export.

Working Together

The MCPP is a collaboration between downstream water users, specifically the City of Cedar Rapids, upstream conservation entities (Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Services, Department of Natural Resources, etc.) and local farmers working together to impact water quality, specifically the reduction of nitrate loads to the Cedar River and to improve water quantity and soil health.

Expanding a Good Thing

The MCPP extends the work of two current Middle Cedar projects, the Miller Creek Water Quality Initiative Project utilizing creative outreach strategies to educate farmers about conservation practices and the Benton/Tama Nutrient Reduction Demonstration Project which has targeted seed corn growers in promoting cover crops and other strategies.

The Middle Cedar Partnership Project would like to expand the scope, outreach, and longevity of these two ongoing demonstration projects into five sub-watersheds in the Middle Cedar watershed.

Actions

Objective 1: Develop watershed plans to include monitoring and evaluation that will optimize effective Best Management Practice (BMP) placement.
In order to effectively target best management practices (BMP) to high priority locations in the watershed, watershed plans are being developed for the five targeted sub-watersheds. The plan will incorporate conservation practice placement maps which will take into account landscape characteristics such as land use, soil type, topography, and other information to identify best placement of conservation practices to achieve maximum benefit in reaching specific goals. These maps, and other information, will be used to prioritize placement of BMPs for this project.

Objective 2: Implement BMPs through financial and technical assistance to reduce nitrate loads to the Cedar River.
Conservation practices currently identified include nutrient management, cover crops, bioreactors, saturated buffers, wetland creation, and wetland easements. To enhance adoption rates of conservation practices, we will provide outreach to local farmers to share the benefits of conservation practices that hold significant promise for nutrient reduction.

Objective 3: Conduct outreach activities with landowners and producers in the five HUC 12 watersheds.
The Middle Cedar Partnership Project will continue the on-going outreach and technical assistance already being provided to the approximately 435 landowners/producers through the Benton/Tama and Miller Creek projects. These outreach efforts currently include field days, webinars, social media communication, mailings, and one-on-one contacts. We want to increase the adoption of conservation practices in the Middle Cedar watershed through communication and education.

Evaluating Results

The project will track adoption rates and the locations of best management practices to understand which practice type and installation location are best aligned with watershed plans and providing the maximum benefits to water quality, water quantity and soil health. To do this, the project will use water quality models and tools to estimate the benefits resulting from best management practice implementation. Where possible, the project will use water quality monitoring to quantify best management practice results. Monitoring will be an important component of the project. Currently, both water quality initiative projects are conducting monitoring efforts including tile outlet monitoring.

The Benton/Tama Nutrient Reduction Demonstration Project monitors water quality weekly from tile outlets and at several tributaries of the Middle Cedar River. Individual results are confidential but aggregated results can be used to track improvements at the field and practice scale.

Funding and Timeline

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant is contributing $2 million in primarily financial, and some technical, assistance. The 16 MCPP partners are contributing $2.3 million in primarily technical, and some financial assistance. This $4.3 million in financial and technical assistance will be available over the next five years, starting June 5, 2015.

Lead and Collaborating Partners:

1 Farmers / Producers
2 Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS)
3 Benton / Tama Counties and Miller Creek WQI projects
4 Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD)
5 Tama Soil and Water Conservation District (TSWCD)
6 Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District (BHSWCD)
7 Dupont Pioneer (DP)
8 Sand County Foundation (SCF)
9 The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
10 Iowa Farm Bureau (IFB)
11 Iowa Soybean Association (ISA)
12 Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA)
13 Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA)
14 Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS)
15 Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
16 Iowa State University Extension Service (ISUES)
17 City of Cedar Rapids

This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 68-6114-15-004. Any opinions, findings and other conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the author(s) and so not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

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