Category Archives: Watershed Management

Position Opening: Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Management Authority Project Coordinator

Published / by Brad Crawford

Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Management Authority

Announcement Date: 4/28/2017
Application Closing Date: 05/12/2017
Anticipated Date of Hire: 06/01/2017

Buchanan Soil and Water Conservation District, in cooperation with the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Management Authority (WMA), seeks a self-motivated, experienced Watershed Project Coordinator to implement the Iowa Watershed Approach project for the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed. The project will address areas of environmental concern that may include but are not limited to flood reduction, nutrient loading, sedimentation, and other hydrologic, soil conservation and water quality issues for the Upper Wapsipinicon River WMA. The ideal candidate will have experience in watershed planning and/or project management, an ability to interpret scientific concepts clearly and proficiently, and a demonstrated capacity to work with diverse stakeholder groups, including local public officials, NGOs, landowners, farmers, businesses, and the general public.

Position Summary:

The project coordinator will serve as the primary point of contact for the Iowa Watershed Approach program in the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed. The multi-faceted nature of this program will require that the successful candidate have a diverse skill set and the ability to coordinate multiple activities with overlapping deadlines. The successful candidate should be well-versed in watershed planning and management concepts, have the technical capacity to interpret water resource data and information, and strong communication skills.

The employee will manage and coordinate, as needed, the implementation of flood resiliency conservation projects and associated conservation planning, information and education outreach programs, and other related activities essential to the IWA, the WMA and its membership. The coordinator will also work with Northeast Iowa RC&D as they develop a WMA disaster resiliency watershed plan for the watershed. The project coordinator will be closely involved with overseeing a variety of activities. Specific tasks may include:

  • Stakeholder engagement: : The project coordinator will in many respects be the face of the IWA program in the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed. In order for the program to be successful, there must be support from all levels of watershed stakeholders including city and county government, landowners, residents and businesses, agricultural producers, concerned citizens, non-governmental organizations, and the many partners that are involved with the IWA program statewide and locally. To that end, the project coordinator will research, plan, and implement an information and education outreach program to raise awareness about the IWA program, encourage participation in the planning process and the implementation of practices.
  • Implementation of the watershed management plan: The project coordinator will perform professional and technical duties to advance the goals of the watershed management plan. These duties will include implementing the information and education outreach plan and assisting with the implementation of best management practices designed to increase flood resilience in the project area. The coordinator will work one-on-one with producers and other decision makers to facilitate adoption and implementation of the practices identified in the watershed management plan. The coordinator will also help landowners navigate the process of signing up for cost-share assistance through the IWA program.
  • Project evaluation: The coordinator will evaluate project activities on an ongoing basis, working with local partners and stakeholders to prioritize current and future project activities. Use current technology and tools, such as GIS, to identify resource needs and identify innovative solutions. Utilize monitoring and measurement techniques to evaluate progress toward meeting project goals and implementation of solutions. Assist the WMA in identifying other potential flood reduction and water quality programs and assisting in applying for funds through those programs.
  • Overall project coordination: The IWA program will have multiple activities on-going throughout the five-year program. The coordinator will oversee efforts to collaborate with appropriate agencies, groups, and individuals that can affect the success of the project. The coordinator will plan and lead group meetings as well as one-on-one meetings with project sponsors, WMA members, local cooperators, and various WMA stakeholders. The project coordinator will help with organizing and publicizing meetings, will maintain a clear understanding of project timelines and budgets, and will be the point of contact for IWA program partners, as well as contractors and consultants hired to work on different aspects of the program.
  • Project Reporting and Administration: The coordinator will provide administrative support and manage the project to maintain quality control and maximize involvement of local advisors, WMA members and staff of program partners. Work with project advisory groups and WMA members to complete annual plans of operations and budgets for the project. Work with the project administrator on completing and submitting all required financial and progress reporting documents in accordance with IEDA and HUD contract deadlines.

Applicant Qualifications:

The ideal candidate will be a highly motivated professional with strong communication skills and an ability to take the initiative on watershed outreach, project coordination, and implementation of conservation projects. The Coordinator will need to be flexible and willing to take on new tasks and responsibilities as program opportunities evolve. The position requires a conscientious individual who will provide follow-through on all areas of responsibility.

The Coordinator must have knowledge of ecosystem and watershed concepts, watershed planning, water resource issues, flood mitigation programs and strategies, and watershed improvement practices. Some experience with habitat restoration or agricultural conservation practices, volunteer management, community engagement, environmental education, and/or outreach is also required. The Coordinator must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with a broad range of individuals. The position requires a college degree in Environmental Science, or a related discipline, and relevant job experience in the watershed management field. A working knowledge of basic state and federal agricultural conservation programs and successful grant writing experience is preferred.

Position Information:

This is a full-time position that will be in effect over the remaining 4.5 years of the Iowa Watershed Approach program. The successful applicant will be housed in the Buchanan SWCD office and will adhere to the employment policies and benefit system of the SWCD. Primary work hours will be during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm), however, early morning, evening and weekend work, with occasional overnight trips, will be regularly required throughout the year to meet with local leaders and boards of political subdivisions, watershed committees, conservation districts, interested stakeholders, various state and federal agencies, and to attend trainings. The successful applicant must have a valid driver’s license and vehicle available for use.

Compensation and Benefits:

  • Competitive salary commensurate with education, experience, and skills.
  • Supportive communities and partner organizations
  • Benefit package including mileage reimbursement, sick/vacation time, paid holidays, and IPERS.

Application Process:

  • To apply, please submit each of the following via email to Paul Berland, Project Administrator, Northeast Iowa RC&D
    • cover letter
    • resume
    • writing sample
    • three professional references
  • The writing sample should be from a newsletter, press release or other outreach piece, or a technical report on relevant environmental issues. If not available, another piece may be submitted that conveys the applicant’s ability to clearly interpret the natural world to the general public.

Buchanan SWCD does not discriminate against any qualified employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, physical or mental disability. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, or familial status.

WMA Project Coordinator Position – Upper Wapsi River WMA (PDF)

In the News: Cut of $96 million to go to Wapsie flood plans

Published / by Jack Swanson

Will be looking at ways to slow water flow

By Jack Swanson, Managing Editor of the Oelwein Daily Register

POSTVILLE – The Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed Management Authority recently kicked off a process to develop a 20-year plan for increasing resiliency to flooding along the Wapsipinicon River and its tributaries. The planning process, led by Northeast Iowa RC&D, is part of a $96.9 million state-wide Iowa Watershed Approach project, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

According to RC&D, record setting floods in recent years prompted new approaches to
flood risk reduction. The Iowa Watershed Approach gives communities an opportunity to evaluate past and future flood impacts and invest in strategic solutions at the watershed
level.

“Developing a watershed resiliency plan is a public process—that’s why it’s so valuable,”
said Ross Evelsizer of Northeast Iowa RC&D. “As we plan, we’ll identify which flood reduction practices will give us the best bang for our buck. We’ll connect farmers and landowners with cost-share assistance for implementing conservation measures on their land. We’ll work with communities to consider how they can incorporate flood-reduction practices into regular infrastructure maintenance, new projects and upgrades.”

The planning period runs through July 2018. Public meetings will be held throughout the watershed to give residents a chance to learn more and give input.

“The Upper Wapsi WMA will hold public meetings throughout the watershed, likely starting this summer. We will publicize those as they are scheduled,” said Project Coordinator Megan Buckingham. She pointed out that a major part of the planning process will be working with cities to decide which flood reduction projects they want to prioritize, and setting up strategies to implement and fund those activities.

“Ponds, wetlands, rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavers, a green roof, native plantings, tree and shrub plantings, and rain barrels are some of the types of projects cities could implement to increase their resiliency in the face of flooding,” Buckingham pointed out.

Don Shonka is the chair of the Upper Wapsipinicon WMA. “The watershed is the best approach we have for reducing flooding and improving water quality, because it involves so many people to make it work,” said Shonka. “It takes in all the options for conservation and resiliency, and it bands people together to solve the problem.”

The Upper Wapsipinicon WMA formed in 2015, and is a partnership of more than 30 cities, counties and conservation districts who have committed to working together in their shared watershed to reduce the risk of flooding and increase water quality. To learn more about the Upper Wapsipinicon WMA, or about the resiliency planning process, visit their web site at www.upperwapsi.org.

Master River Stewards Program to be Offered Summer 2017 in Wapsipinicon River Watershed

Published / by Brad Crawford

Iowa Rivers Revival’s Master River Stewards Program is a comprehensive river course that will focus on riverine systems, including skills to paddle and navigate rivers, restore aquatic habitat, improve water quality, and understand policies related to floodplains, river protection and restoration.

The Master River Steward program will build on a network of river experts in various partner agencies and organizations. It will help adult learners collaborate to protect and improve Iowa’s rivers, so that current and future generations can enjoy these resources.

Session Topics

  1. Watersheds & Ag Policies
  2. River Form & Function
  3. Navigating Iowa’s Waters/Wildlife & River Chemistry/Monitoring
  4. Stream/Riparian Zone Restoration & Impacts on Fish/Wildlife
  5. Agricultural Production & Farm Waste/Water Treatment Plant Visits
  6. Review & Potential Projects
  7. Post Training/Follow-Up, Project Sharing & Evaluation

Registration Deadline: May 2, 2017 (please inquire about availability after this date)
Contact: Sondra Cabell, Naturalist, fontanapark@iowatelecom.net, (319) 636-2617

$96.9 million Iowa Watershed Approach shifts into high gear

Published / by Lynn Anderson Davy

Cities, counties, and other groups are organizing regional watershed management authorities (WMAs) and hiring project coordinators as the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA), a $96.9 million program, enters its first official year and kicks off work to reduce flood risks and improve water quality across the state.

It was roughly a year ago that the governor’s office announced the grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Iowa’s proposal, The Iowa Watershed Approach for Urban and Rural Resilience, received the fourth largest award, coming in behind New Orleans, New York, and Virginia.

A key player behind the grant win was the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) at the University of Iowa, which helped develop and implement the IWA. In the past year, IFC representatives and other partners have fanned out across the state to meet with residents, elected officials, and conservation advocates to talk about details of the program, including cost-share assistance available for the construction of farm ponds, wetlands, and grassed waterways to manage runoff and reduce flooding.

More recently, as the WMAs start to take shape, IFC officials say they have been encouraged to see local residents stepping up to take control of watershed actions.

“They have really taken ownership and are adapting the program to meet their individual watershed needs,” says Larry Weber, IFC co-founder. “This is exactly the kind of local stewardship we envisioned.”

Weber says he’s looking forward to reaching other milestones as well, including the addition in 2017 of several new watershed coordinators and the creation of at least three new WMAs.

“We will also be identifying locations for the construction of projects such as ponds, wetlands, and more,” Weber says. “It’s all very exciting.”

Iowa has been hit hard by flooding in recent years. From 2011 to 2013, heavy rain prompted eight separate presidential disaster declarations in 73 counties, covering more than 70 percent of the state. A record-setting flood in 2008 triggered federal disaster relief, including funding used by the IFC for a pilot venture, the Iowa Watersheds Project, which ended in 2016.

“We know we need to move the needle, but therein lie some big questions: What projects and structures do we implement to reduce nutrient runoff, and how do we measure their success over time? We’re ready to get some answers to those questions.”

The nine watersheds participating in the program are the Middle Cedar, East and West Nishnabotna, Clear Creek, Dubuque/Bee Branch, English River, North Raccoon, Upper Iowa, and Upper Wapsipinicon. Progress in each watershed varies: Some are establishing WMAs; others are in the process of hiring coordinators, an important first step to commence watershed projects.

“We just hired our coordinator and he’s the one who will build relationships with land owners and execute the watershed plan,” says Todd Wiley, Benton County supervisor and chairman of the Middle Cedar WMA. According to Wiley, the federal grant’s five-year time frame means “there’s a bit of pressure to get things going. The clock is definitely ticking.”

“We really want to get the ball rolling,” says Michelle Franks, executive director of Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., who is working to build a WMA (sometimes referred to as a “coalition”) on the East and West Nishnabotna River. “A watershed plan is something that has been needed in southwest Iowa for some time. We feel like the time is now.”

For Franks, the process of getting the East and West Nishnabotna River WMA finalized has been a bit like “herding cats” because there are so many entities that must be included in the initial membership invite.

“We’ve got 48 towns, 12 counties, and 13 soil and water conservation districts in our watershed boundaries,” says Franks. “It’s been a real challenge to reach out to each of them and to explain the program and what we are trying to do.”

On the North Raccoon River, James Patrick, Storm Lake city manager, is also working to get a local WMA formed. About a dozen entities have joined the coalition so far, with more expected to sign on before the end of March. The focus of the North Raccoon River WMA will be on reducing floods and controlling nutrient runoff, which will improve water quality.

“We’re not going to make much headway unless we have a collaboration of efforts,” says Patrick.

Back on the Middle Cedar River, Wiley says his group is excited about welcoming its new coordinator.

“We have a lot of rural acreages in our watershed area, and many residents are concerned about water quality,” Wiley says. “We know we need to move the needle, but therein lie some big questions: What projects and structures do we implement to reduce nutrient runoff, and how do we measure their success over time? We’re ready to get some answers to those questions.”

The IWA is a collaboration of numerous agencies, universities, nonprofits, and municipalities. See the full list here.

For more information, visit www.iihr.uiowa.edu/iwa.