Control of watershed soughtKalona organizes meeting after recent flooding
NORTH ENGLISH—Tuesday evening representatives from six counties met in North English to discuss forming an English River Watershed Management Authority.
If formed, the intergovernmental authority tasked with controlling flood risks and water quality would be one of the largest in the state. The area served would be cover 640 square miles, include 16 communities, and six counties, Iowa, Johnson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Powesheik and Washington.
Kalona organized the meeting. Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said the idea came up after dealing with flooding.
Kalona and Riverside are at the south end of the watershed, he said. Practices along the watershed affect how much flooding is experienced.
The city of Kalona would like to see a larger watershed management authority come together to help with funding. Previously, Kalona had applied for grants dealing with flood mitigation projects but they were denied because projects only affected one community.
“If we have a working group we become more attractive and the availability (to obtain)funds will become much larger,” Schlabaugh said.
If the group were formed, each representative would have a vote. It wouldn’t use the power of eminent domain to take land and there would be no tax authority, he said.
Larry Weber, member of the Iowa Flood Center, said that forming the group would benefit everyone. The Iowa Flood Center was formed after the 2008 floods. It has helped several communities in Iowa by assisting in researching watershed-management projects and has helped find funding.
Currently, Iowa has six watersheds using 28E agreements, Weber said. A 28E is an intergovernmental agreement with the object of pursing the same goal, such as flood mitigation and the use better farming practices along a watershed.
“This kind of organization provides a benefit to those watersheds when they want to compete for state watershed or federal watershed improvement projects,” Weber said. “The purpose of the project is an overview to plan and implement governing watersheds to lessen the severity of flooding.”
Schlabaugh also offered to speak to the other county governments and city officials about the proposal. He said Riverside, Wellman, and Kalona have already agreed to be a part of it.
Tony Maxwell, a district conservationist of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington, Iowa, attended last evening’s meeting. Maxwell has participated in watershed management groups before, which were initiated by government authorities.
“This one is different for me because it has lots of local government and was initiated by city council and mayors,” he said. “Flooding is a major problem along that corridor.”
The next meeting will be held on June 11 in North English. The location of the meeting has not been determined yet.