Linn County Conservation - Water Quality

By Linn County Conservation

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A little bit of context

  • Wetlands can store 1 to 1 ½ million gallons of flood water per acre.
  • Wetlands can reduce nitrogen levels by over 52%.
  • Wetland ecosystems are some of the most diverse for native wildlife species.
  • Wetlands can be 5 times more efficient at reducing nitrate levels than the best land based conservation practices.

Wetlands function to slow and store storm water helping to reduce adjacent and downstream flooding

In 2016, Linn County residents overwhelmingly passed a forty million dollar Water and Land Legacy Bond with 74% support to fund Water Quality, Park, and Trail projects around the county. The Linn County Conservation Board is leveraging these dollars with other funding sources for the maximum benefit for our region.

Here’s what we’re doing

Morgan Creek Park Wetland Complex

The Linn County Conservation Board has focused on water quality improvement and protection projects at Morgan Creek Park. As part of a Middle Cedar River study, Morgan Creek has been surveyed and the watershed area studied. This study, funded by the Linn County Conservation Board, has provided additional water quality protection projects within the park.

As part of the master plan process for the park, a 35 acre addition to Morgan Creek Park allows for project design to include a network of wetland cells. A series of wetlands will capture and clean water from E Avenue, adjacent neighborhoods, and park impermeable surfaces. These wetland cells are foundational to the overall new park development and will serve area storm water management needs.

The Linn County Conservation Board is collaborating with the city of Cedar Rapids, the Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and others on this project. This Morgan Creek watershed project is directly beneficial to drinking water quality as Morgan Creek flows through Cedar Rapids' well fields on its way to the Cedar River. Removal of nitrates and other nutrients from surface water prior to reaching drinking water sources is a key goal of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Linn County Learning Farm

This unique water quality project located to the NW of Palo, Iowa involves restoration of one of the only known prairie pothole wetlands in Linn County, and managing the surrounding watershed and tillable acres with conservation farming practices in partnership with numerous agencies and organizations. Acquisition of the 282 acre property by the Linn County Conservation Board was accomplished in early 2019. This project will involve additional property acquisition or conservation easements for large scale wetland restoration.

A historic 70 acre prairie pothole partially lies within this property and was drained in the 1930’s for agriculture. The result was farmable wetland that remains a frequently flooded basin with remnant native wetland plant and animal species. Restoring and protecting this unique wetland will have significant water quality and wildlife benefits due to the size and location of this property. This diverse property includes many habitat types that would be enhanced through wetland restoration, streambank restoration, and conservation farm practices.

The learning farm portion of this project will be designed with agreements that will guide the farming protocols to include Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) designed conservation practices such as riparian buffers, cover crops, bioreactors, etc. The Conservation Board hopes to use this property to benefit new farmer programs and also provide a local site to host educational programs that demonstrate the installation of more technical conservation practices in partnership with the NRCS. Through these goals, the Learning Farm will demonstrate economically viable ways to manage farmland while protecting the soil, water and wildlife resources critical to Iowa’s future.

You can join us

Wings2Water, initiated by the Eastern Iowa Airport, has a mission to support projects that help reduce Iowa's runoff and flood impacts, restore local water quality and help eliminate the Dead Zone in the gulf of Mexico. One of the airport's core values is environmental stewardship, including water quality. Restoring wetlands is a proven solution to water quality issues and we ask that you be an active part of this effort.

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Team Members

Sara Bearrows

Ryan Schlader