Boone River project gets more funding

CLARION — In order to make $1.89 million in improved water quality projects within the Boone River Watershed, the project area was approved in mid-December for $1 million in cost-share funding.

The announcement was made from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and is part of an overall $4.09 million influx of funds for projects within seven other Iowa watersheds.

The announcement marked the completion of three years of cost-share funding for improvement projects in all eight watersheds, including the Boone River Water Nutrient Management Initiative — which saw several oxbow lakes restored, a new wetland created and farmers seeding down 9,000 of the watersheds acres with cover crops, among other practices.

On Dec. 15, watershed coordinators Karen Wilke, Boone River Project director; Bruce Voigts, Eagle Creek coordinator; and Jordan Kolarik, Pleasant Creek coordinator, updated area farmers, agronomists and Soil & Water Conservation District directors on the work that was done in the previous threes and an glimpse at the plans for the next three.

Kolarik, who has since assumed responsibility for Eagle Creek after Voigts retired, said there were 45 water improvement projects within the Boone River watershed — 13 for watershed practices, 10 land management projects and 22 urban demonstration projects.

The coordinators outlined goals met or exceeded in the past years, as well as goals unmet. One of those was to get 12,000 of the watershed’s acres under cover crops, but as of this winter there were just 9,207 acres planted to cover crops.

Kolarik noted that he Boone River Watershed has a higher nitrate load than state and regional averages, indicating a need to continue toward more farming practices that will release new nitrate levels into surface waters.

According to Wilke, Boone River project director, a total of 22 oxbow lake restorations were conducted along the Boone River in Wright and Hamilton counties, over the past three years — five in 2016 — and more are being planned.

An oxbow is a U-shaped body of water that forms when a wide meander from the main stem of a river is cutoff, creating a free-standing body of water, or an oxbow.

Wilke said water monitoring shows oxbows take out 95 percent of the nitrates in the water they trap, before the water is released downstream.

In addition, oxbows, which are dredged to the bottom of the original river bed stores water during flood times and provides habitat for fish and migratory fowl.

Research has shown a total of 54 bird species and 30 fish species are using the restored oxbows.