Stormwater Education

Regional Urban Stormwater Demonstration Site 

101 E. Greene St. Postville, Iowa

Northeast Iowa offers a unique landscape unlike any other in the state of Iowa. Steep limestone bluffs and rolling hills offer unique interactions between humans and the watershed they live in. The Stormwater Demonstration Site introduces urban stormwater conservation by demonstrating best management practices like rain gardens, bioswales, infiltration trenches, native plantings, and many more. Water that lands on the site during a rain event is treated through infiltration before entering the City Stormwater system, or held in the landscape, improving water quality and reducing flooding within the watershed.

Regional Urban Stormwater Demonstration Site Brochure

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Watershed Guardian Grant Program Completed September 2021!

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Stormwater Demonstration Site Virtual Tour is Here!

 

Implemented Watershed Guardian Projects

 

Decorah Middle School Dry Run Creek Project

Grant Award: $5,000

Decorah Middle School used Watershed Guardian Grant dollars to improve the Dry Run Creek stream bank that runs directly behind the school. With assistance from IDNR Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they implemented stream improvements through bank shaping and stabilization, and strategically placed boulders for cross vane and student access to the stream.  After the construction, the bank was seeded with eco grasses, native plants and cordgrass by students. Over 250 students were involved with the project. Students created designs for the outdoor classroom with appropriate plant and animal needs for the landscape, they researched various habitats that were needed to support aquatic organisms, and they investigated specific plants native to Iowa. Students also assisted in the labor of creating the space, by laying rock in the bed of the stream, clearing weeds and debris from the streambank, and planting native plants. The Dry Run Creek project resulted in an invaluable hands-on learning tool that middle school students will be able to use for many years in the future. 

 

Clayton County Conservation Board Osborne Pond Improvement Project

Grant Award: $4,935

Clayton County Conservation Board used Watershed Guardian Grant dollars to install rock check dams to reduce erosion and slow down runoff entering the pond, and to plant trees and native plants around the pond area. Osborn Pond was recently repaired and dredged. The installation of these practices will help protect it from sedimentation in the future improving the overall ecosystem of the pond. Despite complications with COVID-19 during the implementation period, several students from Starmont and Central School Districts volunteered to plant trees. To ensure success of the project and safety of students, Conservation Board college-age seasonal staff planted the native plugs and seeded the other native plant species. The park will be used by area schools to study watershed science and water ecosystems in the future. The area will also be used for future Clayton County Conservation Board educational activities. 

 

Fairbank Elementary Rain Garden Project

Grant Award: $1,000

Fairbank Elementary School used Watershed Guardian Grant dollars to install a rain garden along their outdoor basketball court to reduce erosion from upland areas, and to reduce the amount of water that runs onto the court preventing them from using it after heavy rain storms. Thirty-five Wapsi Valley 5th grade students helped develop the project. Due to the closing of Iowa Schools and health hazards associated with COVID-19 adult volunteers and a couple of students helped with the planting of over 250 native prairie plants and mulching of the rain garden. In the future, students will help to maintain the rain garden by pulling weeds and watering as needed.  The school will be able to use the area for education on plant identification, monarch tagging, pollinator and watershed science education. 

 

Readlyn Elementary and City of Readlyn Wetland Project

Grant Award: $4,930

The City of Readlyn received funding from the State Revolving Fund and IDALS Water Quality Initiative funding to improve water quality runoff by converting agricultural land on the south side of town into a wetland. Runoff water from two thirds of the City of Readlyn and several acres of farm land drains into the newly constructed wetland. Fifth grade students from Readlyn Elementary School were awarded a Watershed Guardian Grant to improve the City wetland project by planting Native Prairie plugs. Prairie plug planting will speed up the establishment of native species and help reduce erosion on the newly constructed wetland. Twenty-five 5th grade students were involved in developing the planting project including species selection and placement. Twenty-four students along with over 20 adult volunteers form a variety of organizations helped plant over 4,000 native prairie plants as part of a community planting event. Fairbank Elementary teachers and County Conservation Board Naturalists will continue to use the site for educational purposes such as plant identification and monarch tagging. 

Oelwein Middle School Prairie and Outdoor Learning Space

Grant Award: $1,000

Oelwein Middle School students expanded their existing native prairie located on the school campus. The current prairie was lacking diversity in forbs, so they planted a pollinator seed enhancement mix after burning the existing prairie this spring (2021). They also made the prairie larger, by adding approximately 0.5 acres of additional native planting adjacent to the existing prairie. Additional live prairie plugs were also planted to speed up the beautification of the existing prairie. The middle school students also planted a couple of plum trees and a Burr Oak tree to provide shade and diversity in the existing tree species on the school campus. This project greatly increases water infiltration at the site, which improves water quality and reduces erosion in this area.

Edgewood-Colesburg Raingarden Project

Grant Award: $4,985

High school students at Edgewood-Colesburg implemented a large rain garden and native planting to help capture and filter runoff from a newly installed gravel parking lot. Before project implementation a large amount of water was running off of the new parking lot into a nearby drainage way. Over 50 students helped with the development and installation of the rain garden. The school also received support from community members, who provided materials and machine power, and from their local Natural Resource Conservation Service office who provided knowledge and advice in plant establishment. Students continue to maintain the garden by weed pulling. Educators plan to continue to utilize the project as a unique outdoor learning space.

Sumner Fredericksburg Rain Barrel and Native Planting Project

Grant Award: $1,282

Fredericksburg Elementary students implemented a butterfly garden with rain barrels at their school. The project was developed and implemented by Talented and Gifted High School students, and approximately 50 3rd and 4th grade students during the 2020-2021 school year. The garden and rain barrels add a unique learning resource for educators in the school. Teacher’s plan to use the garden and rain barrels when teaching their students about pollinators and the water cycle. Elementary students will continue to maintain the gardens by watering and weeding them. The project greatly increases the amount of water that infiltrates into the ground and helps capture rain water via the rain barrels. The rain barrels provide a water source for teachers to use in their curriculum and to use to water the pollinator garden.

Winneshiek County Conservation Lake Meyer Improvement

Grant Award: $2,800

Winneshiek County Conservation Board project used prairie plantings as an experiential learning opportunity for students to learn about stormwater management, and how water quality can be impacted by land use and vegetation type.  The planting site was Lake Meyer – a county park area that was being renovated to reduce sedimentation into the lake. Lake Meyer is one of the few lakes in Northeastern Iowa.  Lake restoration work created 3 construction sites that were well suited for re-vegetation with prairie plantings.  

In October 2020 a group of homeschool students gathered for two planting sessions with prairie seeds and cover crops.  Students and parents broadcast seed by hand and learned about the Lake Meyer watershed and about stormwater management from county naturalists.  The homeschool coordinator made excellent connections with other field trips & curricula that this group has been involved with.

In May 2021 5th grade students from Decorah Middle School planted and mulched 300 prairie plugs as part of a service project during their field trip to Lake Meyer.  These students made connections between their planting work and their other field trip activities such as pond study, local geology, and fishing.  Students enjoyed learning about the flowers and pollinators associated with some of the plants they helped establish at Lake Meyer. A total of 125 students assisted with the planting component of this project.

South Winneshiek Middle School Native Planting Project

Grant Award: $500

South Winneshiek middle school students implemented a native butterfly garden outside of their school in a high visibility area. Due to COVID-19 not many students were able to help implement the project, but educators plan to use the area for outdoor education in the future. Students also plan to implement more native plantings throughout the school campus. Students will also be responsible for maintaining the project site by pulling weeds until the native plants have time to establish. 

Postville Middle School Tree Planting Project

Grant Award: $450

Project coordinator worked with Postville middle school students to plant 4 additional trees at the Regional Urban Stormwater Demonstration Site. Students planted two plum trees that replaced two fruit trees that did not survive the harsh Iowa winter. They also planted two non-fruit trees at the RUSD Site. Postville 5th grade students learned how to properly plant a tree, about the many benefits trees provide to pollinators, and how they increase water infiltration. Over 50 students took part in the tree planting.

Cherry Hill 4H Community Tree Give Away

Grant Award: $1,800

The Cherry Valley Chums 4H group conducted a community tree give away. Ten 4H members developed and implemented a tree give away event at two local farmers markets in Northeast Iowa. Market goers entered their name in to a random drawing to win a tree. People who signed up to win a tree also learned about the importance of trees in urban stormwater conservation, water quality improvement and flood reduction. Fifteen trees were awarded, providing added water infiltration throughout the communities of Decorah and Postville.

Central Elkader Tree Planting Project

Grant Award: $540

Forty Central Elkader high school students partnered with Clayton County Conservation to rehabilitate a natural area at Osborne Nature Center. The Nature Center was experiencing erosion into Osborne Pond from a nearby hill. In order to protect the pond from sedimentation and to improve water quality, students planted trees on the hillside to help hold the soil in place. Students learned how to plant trees and the importance trees play in stormwater management and erosion control. Students hope to add additional trees to the area through an annual Earth Day planting event.

This publication was developed under Assistance Agreement No.97761401 awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has not been formally reviewed by EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of Northeast Iowa RC&D and EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.