Channel Chat February 2021

Hello River Lovers,

This month we are focusing on one of our main priorities that we advocate for – low head dam mitigation and water trails funding. This program is part of Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and is funded through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF).  

The Legislative assembly first funded RIIF in 1995 by appropriating $50 million. Now RIIF receives over $100 million which helps fund everything from new buildings at state universities, historic preservation, the State Fair, state parks, lake restoration, building infrastructure, mental health and nursing home facilities, railroads, public defense, and the IDNR Dam Mitigation and Water Trails program. Each session, legislators determine how much each of these programs receive. 

Here is the breakdown of how much this IDNR program has received since 2015. The proposed budget from the Governor for FY 2022, our current session, is $500,000. 

As you can see by the second table, there are a lot of water trail access projects that are ready to go but are limited by funding. This table does not include the approximately 150 low head dams that need to be removed in Iowa.

This IDNR program is important because low head dams are dangerous and Iowans have died. On average, 2 people die per year in Iowa from low head dams. Additionally, more Iowans and tourists have used our water trails this past year than ever before. We should be investing in protecting, maintaining, and increasing the number of water trails and access points.

Currently, many towns in Iowa are looking to IDNR for funding to help with eliminating or mitigating low head dams and creating water trail access points. The way we increase funding for programs like this is by contacting your representatives and telling them why this program needs more money from RIIF. Let’s work together to Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure!

Until next month, stay well

Sara Carmichael, Executive Director


This month we focus on the 323 mile long Iowa River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. When talked about it is usually discussed in two sections – the Upper Iowa and Lower Iowa. The Upper Iowa is 156 miles long and starts in southern Minnesota. This section of the river is part of the Driftless Area, a region that was ice-free during the last ice age, meaning this section has breathtaking views, steep, forested ridges, and deeply carved river valleys.

The Iowa River has been classified as a Water Trail by the IDNR and there are two great downloadable maps that take you through the lower part of this river. 

Upper Iowa River, 2020, Photo taken by Megan McDowell
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