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McCoy to lead Boone River Watershed Nutrient Management Initiative

By Staff | Jan 20, 2020

-Submitted photo Steve McCoy’s love for fishing and other outdoor activities eventually led him to his career as an environmental specialist.

By KRISS NELSON

editor@farm-news.com

CLARION The Boone River Watershed Nutrient Management Initiative is under new leadership since the hiring of a new project leader, Sean McCoy, environmental specialist with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

McCoy is based out of the USDA Service Center in Clarion and has been an environmental specialist for 20 years where he has worked on several projects throughout the state including work done in Story, Polk, Boone, Pocahontas, Wright and Hamilton counties.

McCoy said his career began in Wright County in 1999 working on ag drainage well closures. The most recent work performed before making the transition was the Big Creek Lake Watershed Project in Boone and Polk Counties.

Work for the environment is a passion for McCoy, a Webster City native, who said he is exceptionally excited to work on the Boone River Nutrient Reduction Project.

“That’s why I wanted to do the Boone River Watershed. I grew up in the Boone River fishing, swimming. It appealed to me that way,” he said. “Growing up, I loved the outdoors. I spent a lot of time fishing, hunting and when I graduated from high school, I went to college and ended up with a B.S. in wildlife ecology and conservation. It’s just been something that I have always done and I enjoy it. It brings me a lot of gratitude towards people wanting to help improve the things.”

McCoy said his main duties as project leader is going to be working with farmers to reduce nutrients into surface waters, streams, rivers and lakes around the Boone River Watershed Project.

Currently, McCoy said he is targeting some specific areas within the watershed -Eagle Creek Watershed and the Prairie Creek Watershed. Those two watersheds are considered demonstration watersheds and are used to show the progress that can be made to improve water quality using the voluntary science-based approaches outlined by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy for nonpoint nutrient pollution.

“These are kind of our main watersheds we are working in right now,” he said. “I will be contacting landowners and operators most of the time that have streams running through their properties. We want to start applying edge of field practices such as bioreactors and saturated buffers.”

Cover crops, he added are another big portion of producer’s conservation efforts.

McCoy said he has a three-year goal where he plans to possibly gain 10,000 acres of conservation.

“That doesn’t mean grassland will be planted on 10,000 acres. It basically means where a tile outlets to a creek. If I have 200 acres above that, that are flowing to the tile that is farm ground, we have a saturated buffer or a bioreactor treating that that would be a part of that 10,000 acres. It’s agricultural farm land, but we have some treatment on the tile that is helping to reduce nitrates,” he said.

Currently, McCoy would like to work with 50 producers or landowners a year with 25 new ones each year.

“That would be 75 people a year just to try to get everybody on board,” he said.

But, he doesn’t want to stop there.

“Ever since I started this position, I have been goal oriented,” he said. “I want to eclipse every goal we have. Instead of 10,000 acres of conservation, I would like to put 15,000 in. Instead of 50, maybe a 100 people to talk to and work with every year. I would like to see all of the counties within the Boone River Watershed become a leader in Iowa about nutrient reduction and putting in as many practices as we can that are viable and watch the nitrates in the water drop.”

Currently, the three year goal includes funding through 2022 for the Eagle Creek Watershed and the Prairie Creek Watershed.

McCoy pointed out that just because those two watersheds are a focus right now, he is still willing to assist producers throughout the entire Boone River Watershed Project.

“If we have producers that want to do something within the Boone River Watershed, there is funding for them available as well. Not just those two portions. We are still helping throughout the whole watershed,” he said.

Getting conservation on the ground is key to making this project a success, McCoy said.

McCoy said he has plans to continue hosting field days, workshops and hopes to become a familiar face to those producers and landowners throughout the watershed.

Throughout the past five years of the project, McCoy said there have been a large turn around of project leaders, which has potentially been a hinder to the project.

“I would say we are lagging right now because of the inconsistencies of people. Landowners want to work with a familiar person. It’s hard enough to get them in the office, or get on their property when you have three or four different people every other year. That’s why we are really trying to press ahead and I have 10 to 12 years to work and if I could spend them all in the watershed, I would do it,” he said.

McCoy said he would like to see the Boone River Watershed Project flourish like the one at the North Raccoon has.

“They have been doing a ton of work over there,” he said. “They have had a lot of acceptance over there. That’s what we are trying to do. Take what they’ve been doing and work with producers to get more acceptance over here. Right now it’s a passion of mine and I hope it becomes a passion for everyone else that lives in it and works in it.”

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