REAP assembly is tonight

Meeting gives locals chance to identify needed projects

LEHIGH — The 2017 Resource Enhancement and Protection assembly is being held tonight at the Prairie Resource Center in Lehigh.

The meeting, held every two years, is an opportunity for locals to discuss projects where REAP money should be used, according to Tammie Krausman, REAP coordinator.

REAP was developed by the state government to enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources.

Trails, river corridor protection, wetland restoration, soil erosion prevention, conservation education, and resource inventories are all potential areas of focus for REAP projects.

Local officials and residents in Region 5, including Calhoun, Hamilton, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Webster, and Wright counties, are encouraged to attend.

“The assemblies are important because REAP is really a local program,” Krausman, who works for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said. “Money goes to every county, every single year. It’s a chance to hear from people what those funds actually do and how they impact their quality of life.”

She added, “that’s really important to know if they are still beneficial or should still be going towards that and what recommendations need to be made to the decision-making bodies, to make sure those funds are still being used in the best way.”

In Webster County, Matt Cosgrove, Webster County Conservation director, said REAP funds have been used to help expand trails.

“We have worked with the city of Fort Dodge in doing a trail master plan for city and county,” he said. “We recently finished up a Des Moines River plan for the river corridor throughout Webster County.”

“In all of those public meetings, trails are a big component of what’s going on in the area,” Cosgrove said. “People like to see the additional connections and expansion throughout. I would expect that to be a common theme. Water trail usage has been expanded and a lot of people are using kayaks and that sort of thing on the Des Moines River and Lizard Creek, so I would anticipate in that plan some enhanced access and access sites up and down the river corridor. I would imagine some REAP dollars being used for those projects.”

Cosgrove said most projects are funded through multiple sources.

“Rarely do we fund a project with one revenue source,” he said. “It (REAP) helps us expand that tool box to leverage other dollars.”

He added, “as far as projects, we spent a fair amount matching state, federal, and local grants with our REAP dollars in Webster County for trail development. It has been a good tool to help us expand the trail system. It has also helped us upgrade aging infrastructure at Kennedy Park. That park is more than 50 years old now so a lot of those things have met their life cycle.”

According to Krausman, REAP provides money for projects through state agency budgets or in the form of grants.

REAP is funded from the state’s Environment First Fund and from the sale of the natural resource license plate.

The program is authorized to receive $20 million per year until 2021. The state legislature sets the amount of REAP funding every year.

In 2016, REAP was appropriated $12 million, according to Krausman.

During the meeting, attendees will be divided into groups to talk about outdoor recreation, water quality, soil conservation, and historic preservation.

According to information on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website, more than 15,000 projects have benefited from REAP during its 28 years of existence. The projects were funded with more than $330 million in state investments, leveraging two to three times the amount in private, local and federal dollars.

Delegates will be elected at the assembly to serve on the REAP Congress.

“We elect five of the attendees to represent at REAP Congress, which is where these people take over the House Chambers at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” Krausman said. “They talk about policies related to outdoor recreation, water quality, soil conservation.”

“At that time they will make recommendations to governor, general assembly, Natural Resources Commission, and the agencies that work for REAP,” she said.

Cosgrove said it’s a critical time to be involved in the process.

“This year will be an important year because the state budget is not in the greatest situation,” he said. “When it comes time to look at the REAP program, we always push the full funding of REAP, which we have never gotten. But we hope it can at least stay status quo because it’s an important funding source for a lot of different organizations for protecting our natural resources and water.”

The assembly will last 90 minutes.

2017 REAP assembly

When: Tonight

Where: Prairie Resource Center, 2820 Brushy Creek Road, Lehigh

Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.