July 23 Virtual Field Day: Urban Stream and Riparian Conservation Management

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, and Conservation Learning Group, is hosting a free virtual urban stream conservation field day on Thursday, July 23 at 1pm CDT.  

Join us as we highlight the importance of urban stream and riparian area management with Jan Thompson, ISU Morrill Professor of natural resource ecology and management and Aaron Gwinnup, water resources engineer with Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc.

Rivers and streams reflect the activity of the watershed that drains into them. This is especially true in urban areas, where these waterbodies are tasked with not only providing habitat and recreation, but also capturing and transporting stormwater away from homes and businesses in areas dominated by impervious surfaces that continue to increase. With management of the vegetation and understanding of the watershed to reduce pollutant transport, the health and beauty of these areas can be vastly enhanced and can improve the quality of life for the surrounding community.

“Our research indicates that restoration activities to protect urban streams can significantly improve water quality and ecological integrity of the streams themselves, as well as providing place-based opportunities for urban residents to better connect with these natural features in their neighborhoods and communities,” stated Thompson.

Make plans to join us and participate in the live virtual field day. Shortly before 1:00 pm CDT on July 23rd, click this URL or visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events and click “Join Live Virtual Field Day”.

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 914 1198 4892

The field day will be recorded and archived on the ILF website so that it can be watched at any time. The archive is available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz Ripley

The Importance of Urban Conservation and Useful Stormwater Management Practices for Homeowners

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday about urban conservation and stormwater management practices that homeowners can use. Paul Miller, Urban Conservationist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), discussed these practices and how they can be effective for managing water, while also adding beauty to the homeowner’s property.

Because urban development leads to an increase in impermeable surfaces, water runoff volume and rate also increases. This causes water quality, erosion, and flood issues. By implementing stormwater management strategies and other best management practices on their properties, homeowners can mitigate these water quality and quantity issues.

Miller discussed several conservation practices that urban homeowners can use, including rain gardens, permeable pavers, bioswales and stormwater wetlands. Rain gardens can store water, reducing runoff, and increase infiltration due to the deep roots of the native plants used in them. Permeable pavers allow water to soak into the ground through gaps between the bricks, rather than having the water just runoff like traditional pavement. Bioswales are vegetated depressions that capture and store stormwater, allowing it to soak into the ground. Stormwater wetlands, which would be used by a small community, rather than an individual, are constructed wetlands that are designed to store stormwater, reducing downstream flooding and water quality issues.

A rain garden near Easter Lake in Des Moines. Photo Credit: Jason Johnson, Iowa NRCS

Learn more about these and other urban conservation and stormwater management practices by watching the full webinar here!

Please join us next week, on Wednesday June 3 at noon, when Michelle Soupir, Associate Professor at Iowa State University, will present a webinar titled “A Paired Watershed Study of the Impact of Stacked BMPs on Water Quality”.

Hilary Pierce

May 27 Webinar: The Importance of Urban Conservation and Useful Stormwater Management Practices for Homeowners

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, May 27 at noon about urban conservation and stormwater management practices that homeowners can use.  

The addition of impervious surfaces to the landscape in urban areas increases water runoff volume and rate, which can cause water quality, erosion and flood issues. A stormwater management strategy and best management practices can be implemented by communities and homeowners to provide better site designs and water management. Paul Miller, Urban Conservationist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), will discuss practices that homeowners can install to manage water, while also adding beauty to their yard.

“Every homeowner regardless of the size of property can do something to manage and treat the water that leaves their property to improve water quality and reduce water quantity effects on receiving waters downstream,” said Miller, who has over 37 years of experience in soil and water conservation and resource management with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and IDALS. Miller hopes that webinar participants will take away ideas about how they can help improve water quality in their watershed.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on May 27:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

Raining Cats and Dogs

Earlier this summer, I shared a Dog Blog in which J-Dog and I explored the stream bank restoration and watershed improvement work done along College Creek here in Ames.

On Saturday night into Sunday morning, we were hit with a healthy dose of rain: 4.20” reported by the National Weather Service, with amounts upwards of 6” reported locally. Join us on another walk to see how the College Creek restoration efforts are holding up when really put to the test.

Conservation Dog Jackie checking out the creek as the waters rise

Conservation Dog Jackie checking out the creek as the waters rise

What is usually a quiet stream practically narrow enough to walk over in places, College Creek turns into a fast-moving, churning stream after a 4+ inch rain.

Usually a quiet stream practically narrow enough to walk over in places, College Creek turns into a fast-moving, churning stream after a 4+ inch rain.

As part of the restoration efforts, a combination of trees, shrubs, native grasses, and forbs are being used to protect College Creek from sediment and nutrient loads from the surrounding watershed.

The riparian buffer appears to be doing its job well!  While the force of the moving water has laid down many of the grasses along the stream’s edge, this dense vegetation is providing ground cover and protection from erosion along the stream banks.

The riparian buffer appears to be doing its job well! While the force of the moving water has laid down many of the grasses along the stream’s edge, this dense vegetation is providing ground cover and protection from erosion along the stream banks.

In addition to bank stabilization, these buffers also add great beauty to the neighborhood.

College Creek’s riparian buffers include trees, shrubs, native grasses, and forbs. Native vegetation, such as the grayhead coneflower shown above, also supports healthy populations of pollinators!

College Creek’s riparian buffers include trees, shrubs, native grasses, and forbs. Native plants, such as the grayhead coneflower shown above, also support healthy populations of pollinators!

One happy husky, even during the dog days of summer…

One happy husky, lovin’ the dog days of summer…

While I don’t have any photographs to document it, the neatest part of the walk was an up-close-and-personal encounter with a great blue heron, fishing right along the edge of College Creek, just minutes from my door.

The husky wanted to befriend the heron much more than the heron cared to meet the husky.  This prompted the heron to quickly take off in flight – so graceful, and at the same time, so awkward – quite the moment to experience.

Ann Staudt

Dog Blog: Scoping out urban conservation practices

Join J-Dog and me on our walk as we take a look at several urban conservation practices happening in the neighborhood!

Leashed up, ready to rock and roll!

Last week, I shared my #1newthingforwater for 2015 – working with my HOA to repair several areas on the property that have experienced significant amounts of erosion, and working to get new vegetation established there. Let’s take a look at where things are at now…

We're starting to get some growth here on this slope

We’re starting to get some nice growth here –  this slope used to be completely barren!

Close-up shot

Close-up shot of new grass establishment

 

We have many different walking routes through the neighborhood, but one of our favorites runs along College Creek.  Iowa State University and the City of Ames partnered on the College Creek Restoration Project several years back (read more on the City of Ames Smart Watersheds page – you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get there).  Take a look at College Creek today!

A combination of trees, shrubs,

A combination of trees, shrubs, native grasses, and forbs are being used to protect College Creek from sediment and nutrient loads from the surrounding area.  In addition to stream bank stabilization, these buffers also add great beauty to the neighborhood.

 

Five adjacent homeowners agreed to participate in a

Five adjacent homeowners agreed to participate in a stormwater garden research/demonstration project with Iowa State University and the City of Ames.  Established in 2008, these backyard gardens help to intercept and slow the flow of water that would otherwise run directly into College Creek.

Time for a little break… as the song says, Everybody Poops!

DSCN9442

“Dogs are poopin’ on their walks; geese are poopin’ at the beach.  All these things impact our water, that’s the reason for this speech!” – Lyrics from Everybody Poops

 

 

Scoop the poop

Scoop the poop! Did you know… 1 gram of dog waste contains 23 million fecal bacteria!

OK, time to finish up the walk…  we’ll leave you with one final view of the College Creek restoration project.

Very

Very tempting to go for a little swim!

A beautiful walk on a beautiful evening… thanks for joining us.

Ann Staudt

How does your grass grow?

For many years, even decades, the norm has been to skim off topsoil from new construction sites, leaving landowners with yards composed largely of clay.  Current Iowa regulations,  enacted in 2012, require that builders return 4 inches of topsoil — in areas where there was at least 4 inches of topsoil in the first place —on tracts of an acre or more in certain Iowa cities, with the goals of reducing stormwater runoff and flooding.

The regulation has been under debate and has received much media attention, as summarized in the Quad-Cities Times and Cedar Rapids Gazette.

When presenting to the Advisory Board for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture back in June, Iowa Learning Farms program managers Jackie Comito and Matt Helmers were approached with a question of whether we could create two trays for our Conservation Station Rainfall Simulator, demonstating side-by-side one lawn with 4” of topsoil returned, and a second lawn with only the compacted clay layer.

Newly-created sod trays in June 2014 (C=Clay, T=Topsoil). Pictured below are the soils used to create each respective tray.

Student intern Lance Henrichs was tasked with creating the two trays in mid-June, one with a topsoil base and the second with a clay/sand base.  He then rolled pieces of sod on top of each one.  Henrichs observed, “The first time I put them in the Simulator, the top soil tray had much more infiltration than the clay-based tray.”

Fast forward two months, and the differences between the two trays are even more stark.   The quality of grass is very different between the two trays.   Ask any landowner who lives in an area where the topsoil was removed, and they’ll confirm that growing grass or a garden on clay alone is pretty tough!   The tray with topsoil also allows for water to infiltrate, while the compacted clay layer does not allow for any infiltration, forcing all rain water to run directly off the surface of the land.

Come see it for yourself at the Iowa State Fair!    Visit us in Farm Bureau Park, just off the Grand Concourse, from 9:30 – 5:00pm every day this week (9:30am – 2:00pm on Sunday).

Ann Staudt