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Serving: IA

Watershed group finds success in Iowa

courtesy of Clapsaddle-Garber Associates Biscuit Creek
URBAN CONNECTION: The city of Coralville is partnering on a floodplain reconnection project and will restore a small wetland in a public park. The city is also working to reduce flooding impacts on homes affected by Biscuit Creek.
Iowa Learning Farms: Clear Creek Watershed Coalition helps farmers in pond construction and floodplain restoration.

Clear Creek Watershed, which covers 66,132 acres in Iowa and Johnson counties, is one of nine watersheds participating in the statewide Iowa Watershed Approach project. The IWA project is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provided $96.9 million for flood reduction and water quality improvements. Begun in 2016, the project will end this year.

Through the IWA project, the Clear Creek Watershed Coalition received $4.4 million, which is being used to install about 71 practices throughout the watershed to reduce downstream flooding and improve water quality.

To date, three bid packages have been let for practice construction, with four or five more that will be let this spring and early summer. When all construction is complete, the practices will treat about 5,264 acres of drainage. Practices include:

  • ponds
  • grade stabilizations
  • water and sediment control basins
  • wetland restorations
  • floodplain restorations
  • grassed waterways

The breadth and number of practices that will be implemented because of the IWA project speak to its success. "I have had the pleasure to meet with many landowners and farmers, walk with them over their land, and talk with them about what they want to accomplish," says John Rathbun, Clear Creek project coordinator. “The experience of seeing some of those dreams built on the land and working with all of our generous partners on this project has made this experience among the best in my life."

Examples of projects

In rural Johnson County, the Sippy family is having four ponds constructed on their property, including one that will feature a fringe wetland. The Sippys were recognized by 1000 Friends of Iowa in the category of private stormwater management for their efforts to construct natural infrastructure and lessen floods and negative impacts downstream.

In a project within the city limits of Tiffin, Buffalo Creek Development LLC is partnering with the Clear Creek Watershed Coalition to reconnect Buffalo Creek to its floodplain and establish native prairie vegetation along the bank. This project will help reduce flooding downstream and will demonstrate how a creek can provide a beautiful and beneficial addition to a residential development.

Also, the city of Coralville will partner on a floodplain reconnection project and will restore a small wetland in a public park. The park wetland, which is located near an elementary school, will provide educational opportunities for students, as well as community benefits. The city is also working to reduce flooding impacts on homes affected by Biscuit Creek.

Partners in the Iowa Watershed Approach project include the Iowa Economic Development Authority; Homeland Security and Emergency Management; University of Iowa; Iowa State University; University of Northern Iowa; Iowa Department of Natural Resources; Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; the cities of Coralville, Dubuque and Storm Lake; and Benton, Buena Vista, Fremont, Iowa, Johnson, Mills, Winneshiek and Howard counties.

For more information about the Clear Creek Watershed project, visit

Pierce is an Extension Program Specialist with a focus on water quality with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks.


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