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To create Iowa’s newest wetland

By Staff | Aug 6, 2016

LANDOWNERS pose for a photo as they symbolically break ground for a new wetland which will be created later this fall in Wright County. From left are Chuck Smoldt, Roger Burras, Dot Burras, Rene Worrall, Vickie Snyder and Rick Burras.

CLARION – A new 13-acre wetland is set for creation in Wright County.

Land movers will begin building a weir later this month that will create the pond designed to remove 19,650 pounds of nitrates annually from tile runoff in section 34 of Norway Township.

The wetland is critically placed within the Eagle Creek watershed and will catch the runoff from 1,023 acres.

With a lifespan of 150 years, the wetland is designed to remove 1,450 tons of nitrates from tile water and surface runoff.

Various government entities gathered with landowners on July 27 on the site to conduct a groundbreaking ceremony.

MIKE NAIG, gesturing, Iowa’s deputy secretary of agriculture, talks about how the new wetland will be designed to remove significant amounts of nitrates from nearby tile lines. Looking on is Jim Gillespie, IDALS division director of soil conservation and water quality.

Landowners Chuck Smoldt and Roger Burras, along with his family, were joined by representatives of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Farm Services Agency, Wright County Soil Conservation Service and Ducks Unlimited.

Mike Naig, Iowa’s deputy secretary of agriculture, said the location is ideal for a wetland.

“It’ll just sit here and do its job,” Naig said.

That job will include removing upward to 40 percent of the nitrates in the water before it makes its way into Eagle Creek.

It’ll also provide outdoor recreation opportunities with wildlife nesting on or near the pool.

Mike Shannon, regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited said the organization is providing $30,000 toward the development of the wetland.

Ideal spot

Burras said he rented and farmed the land the wetland will cover. It was cropped in 2015.

“It makes sense to make this site a wetland,” Burras said. “It’s an ideal place for the dam in proximity with the (county drainage) ditch, which is Eagle Creek.”

Burras said he served 13 years with the Wright County Conservation Board.

The new wetland is an Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program site.

Bruce Voigts, who oversees management of the Eagle Creek Watershed project, said the entire project area covers 55 acres, including the pool and buffer zone.

The deepest part of the pool right behind the weir will be about 13 feet, but the majority of the wetland will not be more than a few feet deep, which will allow emergent wetland plants and the microbes needed to grow and consume nitrates.

He said wetlands are considered the most productive edge-of-field practice in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy toolbox.

“But we are going to need 7,000 of these,” Voigts told those attending the July 27 gathering. “We have 95 now.”

Iowa CREP site

CREP is a major state/federal initiative to develop wetlands which are strategically located using advanced computer technology and designed to remove nitrates from tile-drainage water from cropland areas. Removal of nitrate from these waters helps protect drinking water supplies and reduce hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Financial incentives are provided to private landowners to develop and restore wetlands that intercept tile drainage from agricultural watersheds.

Landowners receive annual land payments for up to 15 years and reimbursement for costs of wetland and buffer establishment. Easements to maintain the wetlands and buffers are required for a minimum of 30 years with permanent easements offered as well.

Water quality monitoring completed by researchers at Iowa State University has confirmed that CREP wetlands remove 40 percent to 90 percent of the nitrate and 90-plus percent of the herbicide in tile drainage water from upper-lying croplands.

In addition to reducing nitrate loads to surface waters, the wetlands will provide wildlife habitat and increased recreational opportunities.

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