News, State Feed

Rathbun Recognized with Circle of Excellence IAWA Iowa Watershed Award

John RathbunAMES, IOWA – John Rathbun, watershed coordinator for the Clear Creek Watershed Coalition, is honored today with the Circle of Excellence award from the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) as part of the fourth annual IAWA Iowa Watershed Awards program.

Rathbun is honored alongside five other watershed coordinators who are also receiving a 2021 IAWA Iowa Watershed Award. The recipients were announced at the 2021 Iowa Water Conference.

“In these challenging times, it’s important to recognize these unsung heroes who continue to make great progress implementing conservation practices that improve water quality,” says Sean McMahon, IAWA Executive Director. “These watershed coordinators have worked during a global pandemic to help meet local community goals while also simultaneously advancing the objectives of the statewide Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

A crucial flood control project takes shape

This is the second year in a row that Rathbun has earned this award. After several years of his planning and meeting with landowners and local governments, 2020 saw structures taking shape that will mitigate flooding along Clear Creek.

“Last year we installed 14 practices,” Rathbun says. The work included 10 ponds, three grade stabilization structures that look like dry ponds, and two rock chutes. This spring, 20 more practices, a mix of sediment control basins and grassed waterways, will be built.  All of that work is in the agricultural half of the watershed’s 66,000 acres.

Later this year, the city of Coralville will restore flood plains. Upstream, the town of Tiffin will restore native prairie along a stretch of the creek.

“People will be able to walk their dogs and see what Iowa used to look like,” Rathbun says of the prairie restoration.

The entire project is aimed at flood control, with part of the cost supported by a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The normally calm Clear Creek starts in farming areas north of the Williamsburg outlet mall and empties into the Iowa River in Coralville. During the historic floods of 2008, Clear Creek swamped Coralville, damaging more than 200 businesses and closing roads.

By the end of this year, Rathbun hopes to have some 70 flood mitigation practices finished.

“There will be lots of construction,” he says. “We’re looking forward to getting the rest of this project on the ground.”

In addition to reducing the risk of floods, the project is expected to bring the environmental benefit of cleaner water.  Ponds and wetlands denitrify water and sediment settles out in them. At two locations in the watershed, the University of Iowa measures nitrate concentration and several other indicators of water quality as well as discharge rates.

Rathbun was hired as watershed coordinator in 2017 when he joined the staff of the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District.  Before that, he spent 18 years as an urban landscape designer.

Rathbun’s partners in the Clear Creek Watershed Project include USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Department of Homeland Security, Johnson County, the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, the Iowa Flood Center, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Rathbun also works with Johnson County Conservation Department and the local Watershed Management Association. The Mayor of Coralville, John Lundell, and Iowa County Supervisor John Gahring have also offered support and advice to the project, he says.

To help maintain momentum for this work, Rathbun will receive funding through the Iowa Watershed Award to apply to the Clear Creek Water Quality Project as well as funding for his own professional development.

The IAWA Iowa Watershed Awards program was developed by IAWA in partnership with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Conservation Districts of Iowa, IDALS, and Iowa DNR. 

The Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) is increasing the pace and scale of farmer-led efforts to improve water quality in Iowa. Founded in 2014 by Iowa Corn, the Iowa Soybean Association, and the Iowa Pork Producers Association, IAWA is building public-private partnerships focused on implementing water quality solutions. Iowa farmers are actively engaged in various conservation efforts that improve water quality. Learn more at www.iowaagwateralliance.com.


USDA Rural Development Provides $548,300 in Grants to Support Disaster Recovery Across Rural Iowa

DES MOINES, IOWA – The Biden Administration, along with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Acting State Director for Iowa Darin Leach, today announced that the USDA is investing $548,300 to assist 14 Iowa communities in supporting disaster recovery. These funding awards were made through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Grant program.

“Investing in critical community facilities is a key component of improving the quality of life in rural Iowa, which is why these projects are so impactful,” said Darin Leach, USDA Rural Development Acting State Director in Iowa. “Helping rebuild and restore these communities is an important emphasis at USDA Rural Development.”

The projects received grants ranging from $2,600 to $82,000. USDA Rural Development has additional grant funding available and is accepting applications until all funds are exhausted. Grant assistance will be provided on a graduated scale; smaller communities with the lowest median household income are eligible for a higher proportion of grant funds. Application information is available at www.rd.usda.gov/ia or by calling (515) 284-4663.

“With a historic amount of disaster grant funding available through the Community Facilities Program, we look forward to partnering with natural disaster-impacted rural Iowa communities on their road to long-term recovery,” Leach added.

Iowa projects receiving awards today include:

  • The City of Lohrville will use a $40,400 grant to purchase emergency responder equipment including air packs, cylinders, masks, and related equipment. The city's current equipment is old and out of compliance and risks the safety and efficiency of the emergency responders.
  • The City of Volga is receiving a $82,000 grant to purchase a fire tanker truck and turn out gear for the volunteer fire department. The fire department's existing vehicle was purchased in 1980 and has a manual transmission and low-capacity water tank. This project will allow the city to purchase a new tanker vehicle with a more efficient automatic transmission and high-capacity water tank to accommodate the city's 208 residents.
  • The City of Leon will use a $44,000 grant for the purchase of a police vehicle. The replacement vehicle will improve reliability of police response as the current vehicle has high mileage. Additionally, they are receiving a $39,000 grant to purchase a public works vehicle.  The vehicle will also include a snow plow attachment and dump bed so that the community's streets, parks, trails, cemetery, and facilities can be properly maintained. These grants will increase the overall safety of the community and its residents.
  • The City of Randolph will use a $11,000 grant to purchase a mower and maintenance equipment. The city's existing mower and maintenance equipment are beyond their useful life. This project will allow the city to purchase new equipment and continue essential regular maintenance of city property for the 168 local residents.
  • The City of Persia is receiving $50,000 grant to purchase a maintenance truck for the city of Persia. The city's existing vehicle is beyond useful life and requires regular, costly repairs. This project will allow the city to purchase a new vehicle and continue to provide essential maintenance services for Persia's 319 residents.
  • The City of Wyoming will use a $2,600 grant to install a new HVAC system for the daycare building. The existing system does not work properly, requiring regular costly maintenance and creates an uncomfortable environment for staff and children. This project will help the daycare center purchase a new system in the facility and maintain the health and safety of those who utilize the daycare service.
  • The City of Keokuk is receiving a $66,000 grant used for the purchase of equipment for the Keokuk airport. The airport is in need of replacing existing edge lights along the airplane runway, direct buried cable with new LED lights, a conduit system, and a new Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) system to help ensure that planes are a provided a visual indication of the aircraft's position relative to the designated glideslope for the runway. This project will help to ensure the safety of patrons utilizing the airport's runway.
  • The City of Montrose will use a $27,300 grant to help purchase a police vehicle for the city of Montrose. The city's Police Department currently has a vehicle in its fleet with high mileage and requires regular, costly maintenance. This project will help the city purchase a new vehicle with modern equipment that will replace the aging vehicle in its current fleet and allow the police department to continue providing essential public safety services to the 898 local residents.
  • The City of Villisca will use a $25,900 grant to purchase a power load cot for the city's volunteer ambulance service. The city's existing two ambulance vehicles are equipped with cots that require physical lifting by emergency service providers. This project will allow the city to purchase a new mission essential power-loading cot that will help protect emergency service providers from lifting injuries and will provide greater stability for patients.  
  • The Atalissa Community Fire Department, Inc. is receiving a $3,800 grant to purchase a backup generator so that the fire station can be an emergency shelter and cooling center during a power outage. The city was recently without power for 10 days that limited the fire department’s ability to effectively respond to emergencies.  
  • The City of Nichols is receiving a $28,000 grant to purchase a brush fire truck and air packs for the City of Nichols fire department.  The city's existing air packs have expired and are out of compliance.  The city's existing brush fire truck is aging and is in need of replacement.
  • The City of West Bend will use a $50,000 grant to assist in the purchase of a mini pumper fire truck to replace the city's existing 1987 model.  The new fire truck will provide emergency services for the city's 785 residents.
  • The City of Mount Ayr is receiving a $18,300 grant to purchase and install two emergency warning sirens. The city's existing sirens are not fully functional; while one siren still produces, sound, it no longer rotates, and the other siren is no longer functional at all. This project will help to provide emergency warning signals for the 1,691 residents of the local community.
  • The City of Milton will use a $60,000 grant to purchase a tractor and related apparatus. The new equipment will be used to help city service employees with street maintenance, snow removal, mowing and other maintenance needs.         

Background:

USDA is investing in 15 projects in rural Iowa through the Community Facilities Grant Program. These programs provide affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. An essential community facility is defined as a facility that provides an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a rural area, and does not include private, commercial, or business undertakings.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.

Interested parties should contact their local USDA Rural Development Iowa Office for information about additional funding, application procedures and eligibility details. The Community Facilities Direct Loan Program Guidance Book for Applicants also provides a detailed overview of the application process.

USDA Rural Development has 11 offices across the state to serve the 1.7 million residents living in rural Iowa. Office locations include a state office in Des Moines, along with local offices in Albia, Atlantic, Humboldt, Indianola, Iowa Falls, Le Mars, Mount Pleasant, Storm Lake, Tipton and Waverly. These offices help to provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/ia or call (515) 284-4663. Follow us on Twitter @RD_Iowa.


MidAmerican encourages customers to temporarily reduce natural gas use due to extreme weather

DES MOINES, Iowa – MidAmerican Energy is asking its customers to conserve their natural gas use as extreme weather conditions are impacting supplies around the country.

While MidAmerican’s systems are operating as expected, the flow of natural gas to our area has been impacted due to frozen wells in the southern U.S.

To manage the supply of natural gas, MidAmerican is coordinating with its largest customers to ensure uninterrupted gas service for residential customers. As temperatures rise over the next few days, the issue is expected to resolve itself.

While MidAmerican is taking every step to keep homes safe and warm, even small adjustments will help to ensure that natural gas is available. Simply lowering thermostats by a few degrees can help.

The arctic conditions have also affected regional electric power generation in some states, though MidAmerican customers are connected to a different portion of the electric grid that is not currently experiencing the same challenges.

More energy conservation tips

Customers can stay comfortable in their homes while also saving money on utility bills through these additional conservation tips:

  • Check your furnace filter. If the filter is dirty, replace it according to the furnace manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • If your home furnace has outdoor plastic intake and exhaust vent pipes, clear any snow and ice to ensure they’re not blocked.
  • Check your interior supply and return air vents, baseboards and radiators to make sure warm air can circulate indoors.
  • To help keep your utility bill down, limit the use of space heaters when possible. Instead, add a layer of clothing or an extra blanket. If you use a space heater, place it at least three feet away from other objects. Shut it off when you go to sleep or leave the area.
  • If you have window curtains, keep them closed at night to help stop cold air that leaks in through your windows. During the day, open them when it’s sunny to help warm your home. Close curtains on windows that are not in direct sunlight.
  • If you feel cold air drafting in through windows or doors, consider adding weather stripping.
  • Do not use a gas stove to heat your home and do not run a generator indoors. This can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • A working carbon monoxide detector is just as important as a smoke alarm. Test both regularly. Carbon monoxide is odorless. CO poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms – even death. If you suspect CO poisoning, dial 911, seek fresh air and remain outside or elsewhere until help arrives.
  • If you smell natural gas, leave the area immediately. From another location at a safe distance, call MidAmerican Energy at 800-595-5325, and then dial 911.
  • Hire a professional to inspect and service your furnace once a year to make sure it’s working correctly, which will help keep you safe and warm during the next cold snap.

MidAmerican encourages any customer who is experiencing financial difficulties to call 888-427-5632 to discuss payment options.

About MidAmerican Energy
MidAmerican Energy, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, serves 795,000 electric customers in Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota, and 774,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. Information about MidAmerican Energy is available at MidAmericanEnergy.com and company social media channels.


Quad Cities Flood Resiliency Alliance to meet virtually Feb. 18

WHAT: Quad Cities Flood Resiliency Alliance Virtual Meeting

WHO SHOULD ATTEND: City/county/village leaders and administrators; emergency management personnel; floodplain managers; public works personnel; local and state-level elected officials; residents and property owners in the region.

WHERE:  Online Meeting – contact  riveraction@riveraction.org for link

WHEN:  1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021

ADMISSION: Free              

CONTACT:  Carol Downey, River Action Program Manager, at 563-322-2969 or cdowney@riveraction.org

Davenport, Iowa, Feb. 15, 2021—An online meeting of the Quad Cities Flood Resiliency Alliance will be held on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 1:30 p.m. The Alliance is open to the public and is a forum for timely and educational information on flood prevention, mitigation, flood insurance and floodplain management. Speakers for the Feb. 18 meeting include Gena McCullough, Bi-State Regional Commission; Mark Hunt, City of Bettendorf; Alayna Chuney, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

About the Alliance: At River Action’s October 2018 Upper Mississippi River Conference, a workshop launched a new initiative for the greater Quad City region within the Mississippi River watershed. The Quad Cities Flood Resiliency Alliance kicked off with many local river cities, towns and villages showing a keen interest in flood prevention, flood damage mitigation, and floodplain restoration. Quarterly meetings followed, starting in November 2018.

The Quad Cities alliance includes parts of Scott, Clinton, Muscatine and Louisa counties in Iowa, and Rock Island, Whiteside, Mercer and Henry counties in Illinois. It provides a forum for river stakeholders to share information, resources, flood prevention or mitigation policies and to get to know river neighbors for assistance before, during or after flood events.

About 75 communities comprise the alliance footprint, but only three are enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. The CRS encourages a wide variety of creditable activities that communities can undertake as they continually strive to improve their ratings. The base rating begins at 10, and a variety of activities take the rating toward the best rating of 1, which earns the largest flood insurance discounts. The activities themselves provide benefits to the community in reduced or avoided flood damage, quicker recovery, and stricter floodplain regulations to continue these benefits into the future. Moline, Davenport and Rock Island County are rated eight, eight, and seven, respectively and currently earn modest discounts on flood insurance premiums.

Goals of the alliance include educating communities on the CRS program and assisting with application and enrollment, training certified floodplain managers to eventually have one in each community, and establishing pre-disaster communications and relationships between communities to enable sharing of resources and assistance around flood events.

Meetings are held quarterly. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, contact River Action at 563-322-2969 or email cdowney@riveraction.org.


Governor extends COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, the Governor extended the State's Public Health Emergency Declaration. 

The Declaration extended all in-place health mitigation efforts through Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. 

In-place health mitigation steps include masks for indoor public spaces, prohibiting indoor gatherings of more than 15 people, and prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people.

One change in the Governor's latest order includes organized, non-school sports for youth or adults being no longer prohibited, but participants are limited to two spectators. 

To read the entire declaration, visit the Governor's website.

The City's face covering mandate also remains in-place, and can be read online. For more information about COVID-19 and the City, visit our COVID-19 resources website


Governor makes additional funds available for COVID-19-impacted renters and homeowners

The Governor announced additional funds for the CARES Act to support Iowa renters and homeowners at-risk of eviction or foreclosure due to a COVID-19-related loss of income, on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

The Iowa Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention program has now allocated a total of $37.4 million, with approximately $8 million remaining available. The deadline to apply for rent and mortgage assistance as well as utility assistance through the Iowa Residential Utility Disruption Prevention program is Dec. 4, 2020.  

The programs are funded through federal CARES Act funds, which requires that all funds be used by Dec. 30, 2020.  

To be eligible for either program: 

  • Must have a documented COVID-19-related loss of income on or after March 17, 2020. 
  • Household income at the time of application may not exceed 80% median family income, which varies by county and household size and is included in the applications.

To learn more about the program, visit iowahousingrecovery.com and make sure to apply on or before Dec. 4, 2020. For more Iowa City COVID-19 information and resources, visit icgov.org/Coronavirus.


Governor requires masks in all indoor spaces open to the public starting Nov. 17, 2020

On Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, the Governor issued a new order mandating that masks be worn in all indoor spaces open to the public starting at midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

The mandate will be effective until Dec. 11, 2020. This measure comes as Johnson County and Iowa as a whole experiences a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

Along with the mask order, the Governor issued several other mitigation efforts, including:

  • Prohibiting indoor gatherings of more than 15 people.
  • Prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people. 
  • Closing restaurants and bars for indoor services at 10 p.m.

High school sports have not been prohibited, but the Governor announced several new measures for such events. To read the entire declaration, visit the Governor's website.

The City's face covering mandate remains in-place, and can be read online. For more information about COVID-19 and the City, visit our COVID-19 resources website


Governor requires masks at indoor gatherings of 25 or more; continues COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, the Governor updates the State's Public Health Emergency Declaration,  extending all in-place health mitigation efforts through Nov. 30, 2020. 

The latest declaration also added more mitigation efforts, including:

  • Requiring masks at all indoor gatherings of 25 people or more and all outdoor events of 100 people or more.
  • Requiring masks for employees and customers at businesses like salons, barbershops, massage therapy establishments, tattoo parlors, and other personal service businesses.
  • Groups of eight or more are prohibited at bars, restaurants, and any gathering of a social, community, recreational, leisure, or sporting nature, unless the entire group is from the same household. 

These new measure will be effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, and will continue until 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30, 2020. 

Other in-place health mitigation steps include social distancing at restaurants, bars, and other business establishments, as well as other gatherings of 10 or more people. 

To read the entire declaration, visit the Governor's website.

The City's face covering mandate remains in-place, and can be read online. For more information about COVID-19 and the City, visit our COVID-19 resources website