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.

Polk County Passes Water and Land Legacy Bond

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On November 6, Polk County voters overwhelming supported the Water and Land Legacy Bond with 72% support for this ballot measure. This is a huge victory for outdoor conservation and recreational interests in Polk County. This success continues to reinforce the bi-partisan and strong support for investing in Iowa’s natural resources. In 2010 voters across the state supported the Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy measure by over 63% to establish the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund constitutional amendment, and yet Iowa lawmakers have not responded with efforts to fund the Trust Fund. Investing in Iowa’s outdoors improves Iowa’s economy and preserves our natural heritage for future generations.

The Polk County Water and Land Legacy Bond will be administered by the Polk County Conservation Board and will allocate $50 million over a 20 year timeline for projects that improve lakes, rivers and streams ($10M), land and habitat protection ($18M), parks ($15M), and trails ($7M).

[typography font=”Droid Sans” size=”16″ size_format=”px”]Over the next 20 years, Polk County residents will benefit from projects that will:[/typography] [unordered_list style=”tick”]
  • Preserve clean drinking water for our children and grandchildren.
  • Improve water quality in our lakes, ponds, and streams.
  • Increase and enhance wildlife and habitat, and opportunities to view and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Connect communities by means of trails and greenways.
  • Revitalize parks and amenities.
  • Expand outdoor recreation and education opportunities for all ages and abilities.


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