The Upper Wapsipinicon River (UWR) Watershed is a long narrow watershed that is divided by many political boundaries. It encompasses small portions of 11 Iowa counties, as well as a portion of one Minnesota county. All or portions of 27 incorporated communities, 16 of which are located on or adjacent to a stream or river, and 17 unincorporated communities/villages, are also located within the watershed boundaries. In part because of the inherent political division of the watershed, and in part because the majority of political entities in the watershed only have a very small portion of the watershed within their boundaries, very few subwatershed projects have ever been implemented to build watershed identity or develop plans. Before formation of the UWR WMA, neither the political entities, nor the watershed residents, had worked together to understand their watershed, set goals and strategies, or to take collective action.
Formation of the UWR WMA changed the dynamics of the watershed by building connections and partnerships between local, state, regional and federal partners. Perhaps even more importantly, it began to build watershed identify and provide a forum for collective thought and action. Funding from a Disaster Resilience Grant provided the financial and technical resources that the UWR WMA needed to engage watershed residents in planning. To maximize the unique opportunity that the grant provided, community engagement and planning was designed to build watershed identity and provide opportunities for watershed residents and community leaders to be involved through various engagement strategies. Implementation of strategies by the UWR Watershed Management Authority Board with assistance from the Northeast Iowa RC&D Planning Team were maximized through the support provided by a diverse team of local, regional, state and federal experts associated with the Iowa Watershed Approach, but ultimately the engagement encouraged local residents and leaders to think, plan and act.
The resulting UWR Watershed Resiliency Plan reflects diverse engagement and input with the hope that it will inspire partners from across the watershed, including public and private residents and organizations from multiple counties, communities, and villages. It also details the ideas and actions that local residents and leaders feel can be implemented and will make a difference.
Several meetings were held in the UWR Watershed, as described below. The meetings were designed, structured and implemented to gather input from Watershed residents, including producers, community members, and partners. Research, information, and in some cases maps and diagrams were presented, and then attendees were asked to consider the information and provide input about what should be done to achieve watershed resiliency. Public participation was exceptional and input was specific, achievable, and measurable. Participants conveyed an understanding of the UWR Watershed, water quality, flooding, conservation issues, and a desire to participate in the implementation of strategies. Their knowledge, input, and engagement set the foundation for successful implementation of the UWR Watershed Resiliency Plan.
At the UWR WMA Board’s request, Northeast Iowa RC&D, the Iowa Flood Center, Iowa Economic Development Authority and other partners engaged watershed residents and gathered input for the Plan at UWR WMA Board and committee meetings, public meetings held throughout the watershed, through focus group and technical meetings, at community planning meetings and through community planning tours, on websites, through partner meetings, and through UWR Watershed and other surveys. All of these efforts informed the planning in some manner, and each is discussed briefly below.