Dubuque Named “River City of the Year”

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Iowa Rivers Revival says the historic city is in the midst of a renaissance in revitalizing its relationship to the Mississippi River – improving recreation, protecting the environment and bolstering its economy.

Dubuque, Iowa.   “Iowa Rivers Revival,” a group that advocates for rivers, has named Dubuque “River City of the Year” in recognition of the city’s visionary efforts to revitalize its connections to the Mississippi River.

“Dubuque has accomplished a remarkable turnaround over the last couple decades,” said Roz Lehman, executive director of Iowa Rivers Revival, “and the river is right at the heart of it all.”

“Dubuque has reconnected people to the river that inspired the town’s settlement so long ago,” Lehman said.  “Once again, the river is making Dubuque a very special place to visit and live.”

Iowa Rivers Revival pointed to several key river-related projects. including:

•  The Port of Dubuque.  Starting with a new museum – now the superb National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium – the America’s River project has steadily and stunningly redeveloped the downtown riverfront, transforming 90 acres of industrial, underused brownfield property into a bustling center of history, tourism, recreation, commerce and civic pride.   The Port of Dubuque continues to add or restore other features in recent years, including the Mississippi Riverwalk, the historic Shot Tower, a hotel and indoor water park, a conference      center, a casino, the Star Brewery Building, and other businesses.  Dubuque has additional plans to transform more of the Port area.

•  The Bee Branch Creek Restoration and Gateway Project is “daylighting” or opening up the historic creek that was buried in a storm sewer more than a century ago.  The Bee Branch project, under way after years of planning, will greatly increase stormwater capacity, improve water quality, and decrease the risk of flooding damage to 1,150 properties in three of Dubuque’s oldest neighborhoods.  It will make a mile-long linear park stretching from the Mississippi to the heart of Dubuque’s historic North End.  And it will be a community attraction for residents and visitors, with hike/bike trails, bridges, overlooks, gazebos, an amphitheater, benches, gardens, lights and 1,000 new trees.

“There are several common threads that run through the strong projects Dubuque has accomplished,” Lehman said.  “The projects honor the river.  They are environmentally sustainable for generations to come.  They result from careful, focused planning processes involving the citizens of Dubuque.  They were done by a rich mix of public and private collaborators and financial supporters.  They involve many jurisdictions and levels of government, with Dubuque at the hub,” Lehman said.

Iowa Rivers Revival cited some of the other projects earning “River City of the Year” recognition for Dubuque:

•  The Dubuque Water Trail runs 11 miles along the Mississippi River and Catfish Creek.   Iowa has a rapidly-growing system of water trails, but this is the first on the Mississippi.  It offers great sightseeing with five access points, and runs from near Lock and Dam #11 downstream past the City and on to Massey Marina.  Staff of the Iowa DNR, which collaborates on water trails, applauded Dubuque planners of the water trail, which was dedicated June  23, 2012.

•  Catfish Creek Watershed Management Authority (CCWMA) is a multi-jurisdictional organization working on water quality, flooding and other issues in the 57-square-mile watershed.  About half of the City of Dubuque is in the watershed, which includes residential neighborhoods, industries, rolling cropland, dense forest, steep bluffs and rock outcrops.  The watershed is threatened by large amounts of soil and nutrients from both urban and agricultural runoff.  The CCWMA is undertaking a Watershed Management Plan in 2013 and  other initiatives.

•  Bike and Hiking Trails.  Dubuque has 45 miles of trails, much of it on the riverfront system that connects the Mississippi to community parks, the downtown, some of Dubuque’s oldest neighborhoods, and the America’s River project at the Port of Dubuque.  Portions are designated as the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through Iowa.  The system is slated to keep growing, including the new Bee Branch MRT section.

Lehman said:  “Dubuque is in the midst of a renaissance in revitalizing its relationship to the Mississippi River – improving recreation, protecting the environment and bolstering its economy.”

“Dubuque is a great example of public officials, community leaders, civic organizations, businesses and citizens who refocused on their river to improve quality of life,” she said.  “Dubuque is thriving on teamwork and partnerships, collaboration and community involvement.”

“Dubuque is living up to its motto, ‘Masterpiece on the Mississippi,’” Lehman said.

More background and information:

Iowa Rivers Revival (IRR) is presenting the “River City of the Year” award to Dubuque, population 58,000, at a reception at 10:00 AM on Wednesday morning, January 30 at the Grand River Center on the Mississippi River in Dubuque.  Mayor Roy Buol is accepting the award on behalf of the City of Dubuque.  After the award presentation, Mayor Buol and other City leaders and staff will present a virtual tour on “Sharing Dubuque’s Story” about key river-related projects.

IRR presented a “River Town of the Year” award to Central City, population 1,250, on Jan. 21.  Previous “River Towns of the Year” recognized by Iowa Rivers Revival are Webster City, Elkader, Coon Rapids, Cedar Falls, and Charles City.   (For details, go to www.iowarivers.org.)

Iowa Rivers Revival was founded six years ago to be a voice for rivers.  IRR is committed to helping Iowans work on public policy to restore and protect Iowa’s rivers and streams.

Central City named “River Town of the Year”

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Mary Lundby Bridge at Pinicon Ridge County Park in Central City

Central City, Iowa.   “Iowa Rivers Revival,” a group that advocates for rivers, has named Central City as “River Town of the Year” in recognition of the community’s outstanding work to revitalize its connections to the Wapsipinicon River.

“Central City has been a river town since it was founded in 1839, of course, but the last dozen years have seen a remarkable renaissance and focus on the Wapsi,” said Roz Lehman, executive director of Iowa Rivers Revival (IRR).

“Central City has made enormous efforts to foster river-related recreation, tourism, and economic development,” Lehman said.  “It’s a model for what a small town can do to strengthen its quality of life by embracing its river.”

Iowa Rivers Revival is presenting the award at a reception Monday morning at the Falcon Civic Center in Central City.  Mayor Don Gray and other leaders are accepting the award for the community.

The Flood of 1999 was one turning point.  Central City responded by working with FEMA to buy out flood-plain properties along the Wapsi to mitigate future flood damage — and then dedicated the land primarily to be riverfront parks.  The parks have steadily added attractions and drawn more visitors.

In 2000, Central City became a “Main Street Iowa” community, which involved a process of focusing on the town’s existing assets.  “It was obvious to everyone that we were a river town and the river was our biggest asset,” City Administrator LaNeil McFadden recalled recently.

Over the last dozen years, Central City built on the recreational, tourism and civic opportunities provided by the river:  Walking and biking trails were built, and recently were connected to Pinicon Ridge County Park and the new Mary Lundby Trail Bridge.  More people are fishing, canoeing, walking, biking, kayaking, paddle-boating, and beautifying the parks with gardens and plantings.

The Farmer’s market has grown steadily.  “Central City Live” community concerts are held every Friday night in August.  Kids enjoy a July 4 fishing derby each year.  The Mainstreet Design Committee organizes a City-Wide Cleanup each year of the river bank, trail, and downtown areas.  More river-related projects are planned, and the Wapsi is a key part of the community’s vision of the future.

“Central City is proving that rivers are good for tourism, good for business, and good for quality of life,” Lehman said.  Central City estimates it draws 400,000 visitors per year, a huge contribution to the local economy.  And Central City’s population (about 1250) is growing.

“We commend the leaders and citizens, and commend Central City as River Town of the Year,” Lehman said.

“You make Central City a great place to visit, and a great place to live.”

 More background and detail:

Previous “River Towns of the Year” recognized by Iowa Rivers Revival are Webster City, Elkader, Coon Rapids, Cedar Falls, and Charles City.   IRR will name a much larger “River City of the Year” at the end of January.

Iowa Rivers Revival was founded six years ago to be a voice for rivers.  IRR is committed to helping Iowans work on public policy to restore and protect Iowa’s rivers and streams.

“Central City is a superb example of public officials, community leaders, civic organizations and citizens who have refocused on their river to improve quality of life,”  Lehman said.

“Central City has a remarkable collaboration of the Mayor and City Council, City Park & Recreation Board, City staff, Central City Main Street and the Mainstreet Design Committee, the Linn County Conservation Board and staff, civic organizations, and many other volunteers and citizens,” Lehman said.  “It is truly a ‘Get-it-done and work together community.’”

More projects are coming soon in Central City:  Trees and shrubs and native prairie-grass will be planted this spring.  Linn County is looking at creating an “Iowa Water Trail” on the Wapsi.   There are plans for a new gazebo near the Main St. Bridge, a new band shell for “Central City Live” and other community events, a fish cleaning station at the south end of the trail, a handicap-accessible fishing dock, and new safety and interpretive signage along the trail.

“Central City is a small town, but its people and leaders are creating a big and promising future, with the river right in the middle of the picture,” Lehman said.

Nutrient Reduction Strategy – Comment Period Extended

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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has extended the public comment period for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy by two weeks until Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. The original 45-day comment period was scheduled to close on Jan. 4.

As written this “Strategy” does not adequately address the huge impact agricultural practices contribute in contaminating Iowa’s rivers and the rest of the Mississippi watershed’s water supply and falls short of protecting Iowa’s waters. This “Strategy” requires revisions that include new, measured and accountable approaches to reducing agricultural chemicals in our waterways.

IRR’s Public Comments_Nutrient Reduction Strategy_12.28.2012

Comments can be directed to:

→ By mail:  Nutrient Reduction Strategy, ANR Program Services, 2101 Agronomy Hall, Ames, Iowa 50011-1010
→ Online:  http://www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/comments

Related links:

→ Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy:  http://www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/

Iowa’s Water Quality Still At Risk

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The Iowa Nutrient Management Strategy to address runoff pollution was developed behind the scenes with no input from Iowa DNR, conservation or river groups.  It has been reported that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship prepared the portion of the report to address agricultural runoff and strongly resembles Iowa Farm Bureau statements and positions.   The Iowa Department of Natural Resources prepared the sewage-treatment proposals.

Nearly a century has now passed since government institutions have been involved with voluntary conservation efforts and little progress has been made in protecting and restoring clean water to our rivers.  We must demand a strategy that includes accountability.

We now have only 45 days to understand a complex document that has no provision for accountability and relies solely on voluntary efforts for the agricultural runoff.  We believe the public comment period needs to be extended.

Please consider attending the DNR/IDALS hosted workshops and offering your comments to help demand real change.

→ Denison:  Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m., Boulders Conference Center, 2507 Boulders Dr., Denison
Ames:  Dec. 19, 10 a.m., South Ballroom, Memorial Union, Iowa State University, Ames
Waterloo:  Dec. 21, 10 a.m., Ramada Waterloo/Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, 205 W Fourth St., Waterloo

Your comments are very important to ensuring this strategy can reduce point and non-point pollution in our rivers for decades to come. It is important for as many people as possible to respond to Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy within the 45 day public commenting period – ending January, 4, 2013.  The comment period falls during the holiday season which can distract interest resulting in a small number of responses.  

Comments can be directed to:

→ By mail:  Nutrient Reduction Strategy, ANR Program Services, 2101 Agronomy Hall, Ames, Iowa 50011-1010
→ Online:  http://www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/comments

Related links:

→ Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy:  http://www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/
→ Des Moines Register report: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20121116/NEWS/311160051/Register-Exclusive-Farm-Bureau-text-in-state-report?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage
→ Iowa Environmental Council: http://www.iaenvironment.org/
→ Bleeding Heartland:  http://www.bleedingheartland.com/diary/5875/new-water-quality-policy-stacked-against-public-input-for-big-ag

Lake Delhi Update

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During the 2012 Iowa Legislative session, Iowa Rivers Revival opposed the funding because the Lake is highly prone to erosion and sedimentation; it would require costly dredging in the future to maintain depth; it suffers from serous wastewater and water quailty problems; it lacks public access; and there are no real plans for fish passage.

IRR was unable to stop the appropriation for rebuilding the dam. However, we were successful in raising issues to the Governor and Iowa legislators about the problems associated with the rebuild effort, which resulted in lawmakers imposing restrictions on the funding. The Legislature required Lake Delhi interests to provide a plan to increase public access areas, such as boat ramps and beaches, and a plant to improve wastewater treatment systems to reduce pollution and increase water quality.  The Delhi plans were required by Dec 31, before funds could be dispersed.

The Lake Delhi District did submit a plan to the Legislature, but it was inadequate, incomplete and vague in response to the Legislature’s concerns and conditions for funding.  The response did not thoroughly address plans to increase public access, barely addressed wastewater treatment systems for homeowners  to reduce pollution and improve water quality at the lake, had no serious plans to allow for fish passage around the dam.

The Iowa DNR, Director Chuck Gipp responded to the Lake Delhi District with a letter that outlined common-sense steps to ensure that any State funds “are spent in a manner that protects the interests of all Iowa taxpayers and that [the DNR’s] $5 million is a sound investment.”  Director Gipp’s letter said the plans presented to the DNR to increase public access and address wastewater treatment systems for homeowners are simply “not adequate.”

IRR commends the DNR for the State’s measured, thoughtful response.  We continue to urge the State to insist that these requirements are met as outlined by Iowa law, prior to state funds are issued for the project. Voice your support to the Governor and your legislators to ensure these common-sense requirements are met.

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