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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Iowa Section 319 Success Stories, Vol. III

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Bigalk Creek Watershed Project:
Rainbow Trout Population Rebounds

 

Bigalk Creek in northeast Iowa historically has been used for watering cattle. As a result, streambanks along the creek were severely degraded, causing extremely high sediment delivery from streambank erosion.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (using section 319 funds), the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service partnered in a 5-year effort (from 1995 to 1999) to reduce erosion in the watershed, hoping to also increase the rainbow trout concentration.

A stream corridor restoration and watershed improvement project reduced nutrient and sediment delivery to Bigalk Creek.

A stream corridor restoration and watershed improvement project reduced nutrient and sediment delivery to Bigalk Creek.

Cattle exclusion and BMPs to reduce soil erosion

The first major step in the Bigalk Creek watershed project involved fencing cattle off a primary stretch of the stream where most of the trout stocking takes place. Nose pumps were used to provide water for the cattle while keeping them away from the streambank. The project then focused on a subwatershed of 3,140 acres closest to the 1.2 miles of stockable stream and complete restoration of the stream corridor by the Iowa DNR, which included reshaping the streambank, installing rock riprap, constructing fish hides, and reseeding the bank.

Improvements to the stream corridor were augmented by preventive measures in the watershed to reduce erosion. Practices used to achieve sediment delivery reduction goals included grade and stream stabilization, strip cropping, sediment basins, no-till, grass waterways, and grass/legume rotation. These practices are targeted at protecting the integrity of stream restoration work accomplished.

A naturally spawned rainbow trout from Bigalk Creek. Iowa DNR fisheries biologists now consider the creek Iowa's most productive stream in terms of natural rainbow trout reproduction.

A naturally spawned rainbow trout from Bigalk Creek. Iowa DNR fisheries biologists now consider the creek Iowa's most productive stream in terms of natural rainbow trout reproduction.

Rebounding trout population

The Bigalk Creek project demonstrated the feasibility of several new and innovative resource management systems. Major accomplishments include reducing sediment delivery to the creek by 50 percent, reducing the amount of livestock manure reaching the stream by 50 percent, and reducing the amount of sediment from streambank erosion by 60 percent. Erosion was reduced by 12,285 tons of soil in the Bigalk Creek watershed during the project. It is estimated that if current sediment control structures remain in place, erosion will be reduced by more than 5,000 tons a year in the future.

The rainbow trout population has also made a comeback. Bigalk Creek has now become only the third stream in Iowa with documented natural reproduction of rainbow trout.
 

 
Contacts:
Ubbo Agena
DNR Nonpoint Source Coordinator
515-281-6402

Kevin Baskins
DNR Nonpoint Source Information Specialist
515-281-8395

Primary Sources of Pollution:

agriculture

cattle watering
Primary NPS Pollutants:

sediment
Project Activities:

cattle exclusion

stream corridor improvements

sediment basins

innovative farming practices
Results:

reduction of 12,285 tons of soil delivery into Bigalk Creek (projected future reductions of 5,000 tons/year)

livestock manure reduced by 50 percent

rebound of rainbow trout population, including natural reproduction
 

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The Lake Fisher Water Quality Project:
Chipped Tires Help Protect Public Water Supply

 

When the 100-acre Lake Fisher reservoir was constructed in 1936 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) Project, it was to serve a purely functional purpose as a water supply for local residents. Today, that reservoir has the capacity to hold 326 million gallons of water, making Lake Fisher the primary source of drinking water for the 3,100 residents in and around the city of Bloomfield in southeast Iowa. Over time, Lake Fisher has also become a notable fishery and home to Iowa's state record largemouth bass.

Originally 12 to 15 feet deep, the southwest leg of the lake is now only 3 to 5 feet deep because of soil erosion from the lake's watershed. This portion of the lake has silted so extensively that it can no longer handle drainage from the land above it. During heavy precipitation, this portion of the lake fills until water spills onto the road, closing South Lake Fisher Drive. The water draining from 1,380 acres of land in Lake Fisher's watershed deposits an estimated 2,100 tons of sediment each year to the reservoir.

Treating the public water supply also is becoming more challenging because of the sedimentation of Lake Fisher. Often attached to the particles of dirt are pesticides and nutrients that can degrade the quality of water in the lake. Water quality is also hampered by the presence of bacteria from private sewage disposal systems that simply don't work as well as intended because of the soil characteristics of the watershed.

Partnership for land management

The Lake Fisher project is a partnership that provides governmental funding and assistance to local farmers, landowners, and residents who want to improve the quality of their drinking water supply now and in the future. Beginning in 1998, the 3-year watershed protection project has used funding from various sponsors (including 319 funding, the Water Protection Fund administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the City of Bloomfield) to fund structural improvements on properties designed to reduce the amount of sediment flowing into the lake.

Tom Sperfslage, Lake Fisher Watershed Project Coordinator, handles chipped tire used to upgrade 19 private household septic systems in the watershed.

Tom Sperfslage, Lake Fisher Watershed Project Coordinator, handles chipped tire used to upgrade 19 private household septic systems in the watershed.

Project activities include treating more than 900 acres of agricultural land with a combination of terraces, water and sediment control basins, ponds, and constructed wetlands. The project also includes nutrient management, whole farm planning, manure management, bank stabilization, and abandoned well plugging.

An innovative approach to upgrading private septic systems was also used, resulting in 19 of the 22 failing systems (86 percent) in the watershed being improved to meet the Iowa Administrative Code. Although the original goal of the project was to upgrade five systems during the life of the project, this number was greatly increased because of a grant of nearly $83,000 from the Waste Management Division of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Through this grant, chipped tires were used as aggregate in the secondary treatment portions of the new systems installed. In all, more than 300 tons of chipped tires were used as part of the project for septic systems. Monthly samples are being collected over the next 2 years to measure the treatment efficiency of the chipped tire medium.

Results of project activities

Preliminary results show that all three of the project's original goals have been met. As a result of implementing agricultural best management practices, the sediment load reaching Lake Fisher has been reduced by 60 percent. The amount of nutrients, pesticides, and organic materials flowing into the lake has been reduced by 50 percent. As a result of septic system improvements, the amount of bacteria delivered to the lake has also been reduced by 50 percent. Meeting these objectives will improve the quality of Lake Fisher for the more than 3,100 people who rely on it for drinking water.

 

Contacts:
Ubbo Agena
DNR Nonpoint Source Coordinator
515-281-6402

Kevin Baskins
DNR Nonpoint Source Information Specialist
515-281-8395

Primary Sources of Pollution:

agriculture

failing septic systems
Primary NPS Pollutants:

sediment

pesticides

nutrients

bacteria
Project Activities:

agricultural BMPs

sediment control basins, ponds, and constructed wetlands

septic system upgrades
Results:

sediment reduced by 60 percent

nutrients, pesticides, and organic materials reduced by 50 percent

bacteria reduced by 50 percent

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Pine Creek Water Quality Project:
Life Expectancy of Pine Lakes Extended

 

By the early 1990s, the water in the Pine Lakes might have been murky, but the eventual fate of the two lakes was unmistakably clear. If nothing was done, the Hardin County lakes created more than a half century ago by impounding water from Pine Creek would eventually choke to death on the rich Iowa soil of the watershed. The degradation had even reached the point where it could be quantified on the 75-acre Upper Pine Lake: in 1991 studies indicated that Upper Pine Lake would be completely filled with sediment in less than 45 years. Lower Pine Lake, Iowa's first man-made, state-owned lake, had also lost nearly half of its original volume.

Doing nothing was not an option. The Pine Lakes and the surrounding 572-acre state park draw some 500,000 visitors annually.

Streambank stabilization was a key component used to reduce sediment delivery at Pine Lakes.

Streambank stabilization was a key component used to reduce sediment delivery at Pine Lakes.

Combined efforts to reduce sediment delivery

From 1993 to1998, the Pine Creek Water Quality Project, through the leadership of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), undertook a monumental effort to reduce sediment in the Pine Lakes. Through intensive dredging of the Lower and Upper Pine Lakes, DNR set out to increase the volume of the lakes and restructure the bottom for better fishing habitat. In 1997 DNR removed more than 179,000 cubic yards of sediment from the two lakes. Dredging increased the average depth of 5 to 7 feet in Upper Pine Lake to 12 to 14 feet throughout a large portion of the lake. Lower Pine Lake now has a depth of approximately 15 feet in its west end, compared to 8 to 10 feet before the dredging.

Dredging alone, however, would result in treating only a symptom of the overall problem. The effort to take accumulated sediment out of the lakes would be worthwhile only if the amount of soil coming in could be significantly reduced. By implementing a variety of soil conservation measures on their land, farmers in the watershed have helped to reduce the amount of sediment flowing into the Pine Lakes. Practices like streambank stabilization, terracing, no-till and contour farming, and critical area seeding have all made a positive difference in the watershed.

A total of 180,000 cubic yards of sediment was dredged from Pine Lakes as part of a comprehensive project that targeted watershed protection and lake renovation.

A total of 180,000 cubic yards of sediment was dredged from Pine Lakes as part of a comprehensive project that targeted watershed protection and lake renovation.

Extended life expectancy

Overall, the Pine Creek Water Quality Project has reduced the amount of sediment coming into the lake by more than 4,000 tons per year, a 66 percent reduction. Not only is the water cleaner for swimming and fishing, but the watershed improvements and dredging have also extended the life expectancy of Upper Pine Lake alone by more than 100 years.

The Pine Lakes are an excellent example of a combined resource enhancement and protection effort by the Iowa DNR. But the success of this project would not have been possible without the work and commitment of dedicated landowners in the watershed. In addition to 319 support, project sponsors included the Iowa Publicly Owned Lakes Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture Water Quality Incentive Program, Iowa Financial Incentive Program, Emergency Conservation Program, Section 314 Clean Lakes Program, and local Friends of Pine Lake organization; Marine Fuel Tax funds were also used to support the project. 

 

 
Contacts:
Ubbo Agena
DNR Nonpoint Source Coordinator
515-281-6402

Kevin Baskins
DNR Nonpoint Source Information Specialist
515-281-8395

Primary Sources of Pollution:

agriculture
Primary NPS Pollutants:

sediment
Project Activities:

dredging

soil conservation BMPs
Results:

sediment delivery reduced by 66 percent

life expectancy of lake extended by more than 100 years

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