EPA tours Boone River Watershed

By Joseph L. Murphy

A combine unloads corn into a trailer near Webster City. Acting Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Water Nancy Stoner and others toured farms and conservation areas near Webster City recently. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

A combine unloads corn into a trailer near Webster City. Acting Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Water Nancy Stoner and others toured farms and conservation areas near Webster City recently. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) staff, members and partners hosted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Washington, DC, staff on a Boone River Watershed tour, earlier this week. Acting Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Water Nancy Stoner and two colleagues arrived early for the 3-day Hypoxia Task Force meeting held in Ames, this week, in order to see what Iowa farmers and ag retailers are doing to improve Iowa’s soil and water quality.

Arlo and Claudia Van Diest, who farm near Webster City and participate in ISA’s Environmental Programs and Services (EPS), welcomed Stoner and her staff to their home, where they described their family farm—how and why they grew their operation, planning for the next generation, and how conservation is integral to their success.  The EPA visitors got to see the Van Diests’ strip till equipment and hear how Arlo became an innovator, sharing the benefits of conservation tillage with neighbors and helping disseminate the practice locally. Stoner rode in the combine to get a feel for harvesting corn, and Van Diest pointed out the mellowness of his soil and the winter rye cover crop emerging in the stubble.

ISA EPS Director Roger Wolf, who organized the tour, demonstrated management of one of Van Diest’s bioreactors, installed to remove nitrate from tile drainage water. Along with Van Diest’s description of his nitrogen management efficiency improvements, tillage reduction, and cover crops, the visitors got to see integrated solutions for nutrient reduction in an agricultural landscape.

Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance (ACWA) President Harry Ahrenholtz and ISA EPS Operations Manager and Watershed Coordinator Todd Sutphin took the tour group to see water monitoring sites, funded primarily by ACWA and the Nature Conservancy, and described how EPA’s funding had been used to help advance implementation of solutions in Lyons Creek Watershed, within the Boone. Sutphin had worked with local leaders to write a watershed plan for Lyons Creek, leading to the IDNR-EPA grant, and wrote similar plans for other local watersheds, paving the way for significant USDA cost share funds to the area.

Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association. Find more great stories at: www.iasoybeans.com/news