CEDAR RAPIDS — Residents along the Cedar River are going to hear more about it.
“We are all in this together” is the tagline of the educational campaign being launched by the Cedar River Coalition, the consortium of local governments along the river, from Minnesota to its Louisa County confluence with the Mississippi River. The idea is to build support for the coalition’s goal of improved management practices to prevent another flood of June 2008.
“We wouldn’t be in this room today without 2008,” Linn County Conservation Director Dennis Goemaat told about 50 coalition members Friday afternoon at Indian Creek Nature Center in southeast Cedar Rapids. “We’re encouraging people to think in terms of their own watershed.”
Goemaat delivered the first public demonstration of a Power Point presentation developed with a $40,000 grant from Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program. Written with the help of conservation departments in 18 of the 23 counties along the river, the presentation will be available to local organizations.
The program includes basic information about the Cedar’s 7,830-square-mile watershed — 86 percent of it agricultural — and the issues at play in water quality and runoff management.
“For the most part, I think Iowa accepts the water quality it has,” Goemaat said.
The Power Point presentation goes along with other outreach efforts such as the pavement labels for nearby storm drains, broadcast public-service spots and roadside signs with a new watershed logo. The coalition is working with the state Department of Natural Resources on a traveling exhibit trailer for public events.
Much of the new material is available through the coalition’s new website, iowacedarbasin.org/cedar
Coalition members hope the effort builds support for watershed management programs at the Iowa Legislature. Among other steps, the coalition supports a proposed $30 million a year program that would establish competitive funding to implement wetlands research and protection.
David Osterberg, founder and executive director of the Iowa City-based Iowa Policy Project, said that would represent a reversal of the past decade’s trend, which has seen state spending for water quality programs drop $5 million. He noted the federal Environmental Protection Agency notified the state this summer that it’s out of compliance with the 40-year-old Clean Water Act.
“Not even the minimum,” Osterberg said. “That’s what we’re doing. It’s not the DNR’s fault, it’s the legislators’ fault.”
But coalition members also identified work to be done at a more local level. Stacie Johnson, coordinator of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities’ Iowa Storm Water Education Program, said of the dozen cities upriver from Cedar Rapids she surveyed, only one has a runoff management policy.
“And theirs was like Cedar Rapids’,” Johnson said. “Detention-basin-centric. All we’re managing is how fast that flows off.”