Monona considers Turkey River Watershed Management Authority projects and practices
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
The Turkey River Watershed covers over one million acres, including parts of eight counties (Howard, Winneshiek, Chickasaw, Fayette, Allamakee, Clayton, Delaware and Dubuque) and 38 cities in northeast Iowa. Over the years, flooding has wreaked havoc in Clayton County, which is at the end of the watershed, destroying some communities and severely damaging others.
In 2012, the Turkey River Watershed Management Authority (TRWMA) was formed to develop methods of reducing downstream flooding and to improve water quality. The TRWMA also monitors federal flood risk planning and activities, educates residents of the watershed regarding flood risks and water quality and allocates moneys made available to the authority for purposes of water quality and flood mitigation. A board of directors from 23 cities, five counties and seven soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) makes up the TRWMA.
At the April 7 Monona City Council meeting, Lora Friest, executive director of Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, presented the council with information about the TRWMA and the projects and practices Monona, which is a member, can consider.
Monona has already taken advantage of Iowa’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which is administered by the Iowa DNR and Iowa Finance Authority, for phase I of the wastewater treatment project and the impending aquatic center parking lot project—both of which aid in the TRWMA’s mission.
“Monona is a good example for other communities on how SRF works,” Friest said. “I hope other communities do it.”
In order for the TRWMA to work well, Friest said all its members have to work collectively. She said Clayton County, which has faced the most devastation, was the initial applicant, and invited others to join. In the upper areas of the watershed, Friest said communities and producers have worked to hold water up, releasing it more slowly. The TRWMA also looks at watershed modeling from the Iowa Flood Center, which gives precipitation and run-off information and helps determine which practices—like creating ponds—will help.
Seventy percent of Monona is connected to the watershed through Silver Creek, which is at the top of the watershed, so Friest said the city should consider how its practices impact communities further down the watershed. While using materials like permeable pavers, which will be used for the pool parking lot, is a good practice, Friest said there are others—rain gardens, park improvements, a rain barrel program, wetlands, tree planting.
Right now, said Friest, the TRWMA wants its members to determine which projects they would like to pursue so that a more comprehensive plan can be formed.
“Once we figure out what people want to do, we help them go after grants,” Friest said, explaining that entities can choose to pursue projects independently or collectively. “The least you can do is put your wish list into the collective plan.”
Friest said being part of a watershed project is helpful in receiving grants and making arguments as to why a grant should be given. The authority also holds a lot of sway.
“The power of the authority is that all [of the members] might be able to get a grant together,” she explained. “We can do together what we can’t do alone.”
Monona has decided to form a nuisance committee to determine and make recommendations regarding the abatement of nuisance matters.
“It’s always an interesting situation,” City Administrator Dan Canton said of the nuisance issue, explaining that the city ordinance’s definition of a nuisance is not always clear.
Councilmen Jason Schubert and John Elledge volunteered to be on the committee, which would also preferably contain an eclectic mix of citizens.
“It’s easier to have a committee than just the mayor says or the police say,” Elledge said.
The committee would then determine a list of properties it thinks should be cleaned up, then send letters to those residents.
“It will be good to have someone actually looking at things and to get started moving forward,” said Mayor Barb Collins, who mentioned that, if a property owner has difficulty keeping up with the lawn or other projects, which could be seen as a nuisance, help could be available in the form of youth looking for volunteer hours.
The city agreed to participate in the Parolee Community Services Program and will move forward with selecting two individuals to help out with various maintenance tasks around the city.
The parolees, who work to pay off fines and fees for court-appointed attorneys, will work at no cost to Monona.