AUSTIN EDITION -- Group seeks watershed coordinator
Speaker from Iowa program will talk about what works
By Nikki Merfeld
The coordinator of an Iowa-based watershed program will speak in Austin on Monday as part of an effort to reignite interest in creating the same type of position for the Cedar River.
Lora Friest, the Upper Iowa River Watershed coordinator, will speak at meetings of the Floodway Actions Citizens Task Source.
Friest is to the watershed program what Austin's Housing and Redevelopment Authority is to the flood buyout program: a model of success, said FACTS member Kyle Klaehn.
Inviting her to speak at the FACTS meeting is an attempt to spark discussions about having such a paid position locally, he said.
"We're trying to put value to the need for a watershed coordinator in this area," said Klaehn.
The Upper Iowa River Watershed covers 640,000 acres with portions in three states, including an area near LeRoy, she said. She started her job 21⁄2; years ago with a grant through that area's soil and water conservation district. Since then, she's received grants to pay for her salary and the $1.2 million in projects she's initiated, she said.
"What I'm going to do is talk about how (our) project has been successful in uniting people in improving water quality in our watershed," said Friest. "We were starting from ground zero. There were a lot of people who thought there should be a program, just like you are doing there now."
She said she's provided information to bring people and organizations together in projects they feel will work rather than forcing her ideas on them. Because of that approach, she has been able to get everyone from industries to landowners to cooperate, she said.
"We evaluate not just the water quality but the land use and general attitudes," she said. "This project is set up so I never blame anybody. Everyone is responsible for solving their own problems."
Klaehn said he would like to see local organizations that stand to benefit from improved water quality, such as Pheasants Forever and the Izaak Walton League, financially support such a position.