Secretary Naig announces expansion of Northeast Iowa Water Quality Project

Project moves into Tama, Grundy counties – includes edge-of-field practices

Black Hawk Creek Implementation Project coverage map. The farm blue sections represent expansion areas for the project. MAP COURTESY OF IOWA DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE AND LAND STEWARDSHIP

DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced on Nov. 1 that an effective Water Quality Initiative (WQI) project in Grundy, Black Hawk, Tama and Marshall Counties is expanding its territory while also adding a new phase that focuses on edge-of-field conservation practices.

Now known as the Black Hawk Creek Implementation Project, the project began in 2017 as a farmer-led watershed group called the Black Hawk Creek Water and Soil Coalition. The Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners from Grundy and Black Hawk Counties, along with representatives from ag businesses, Grundy County Farm Bureau, Iowa Ag Water Alliance, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were involved from the beginning.

The project has continued to grow and since 2020, nearly 89,000 acres of cover crops have been seeded. The next phase of this project will continue to emphasize the use of in-field conservation practices like cover crops. However, the project will now grow in territory while also including an added focus on the installation of edge-of-field practices such as saturated buffers, bioreactors, wetlands and oxbow restorations. These proven practices help to filter the water and remove nutrients before they enter our waterways.

The bioreactors and saturated buffers will be installed using Iowa’s innovative “batch and build” model. This model modernizes the project management process by installing batches of conservation practices on multiple farms at once, therefore allowing a faster acceleration of water quality progress. Through an agreement with the City of Cedar Rapids, the first batch of 21 saturated buffers will be put out for bid this fall or early winter. A second batch of 40 saturated buffers and 5 bioreactors are going through design work right now. Because of this efficient and cost-effective model, Iowa is setting records for conservation implementation, and we have established positive momentum behind our water quality efforts.

“Because of outstanding local leadership and a farmer-led focus, this project is increasing its territory size while adding more practices, all of which means we can further accelerate our water quality progress and positively impact more acres,” said Secretary Naig. “Our team makes it easy and hassle-free for all farmers and landowners to participate, so we invite everyone to partner with us on making this water quality project an even bigger success.”

Through the WQI, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is investing approximately $463,946 in the next phase of this project. Partners include the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Black Hawk County Conservation Board, Grundy County Conservation Board, Grundy County, Grundy County Farm Bureau, Hertz Land Management, Iowa Ag Water Alliance, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Practical Farmers of Iowa, The Nature Conservancy, City of Cedar Rapids, Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District, Grundy County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Tama County Soil and Water Conservation District.