June 18, 2008

Conservation Practices Saves Tons of Soil From Erosion During Storms

By Valarie Allen, The Creston News Advertiser, Iowa

Jun. 18--What worked and what didn't was the topic of a tour Thursday directed by Union County Conservationist with Natural Resources and Conservation Paul Goldsmith.

The purpose of the tour was to give Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey a first-hand look at conservation practices that prevented further damage during the storms that hit the area.

Goldsmith pointed out grassed waterways that slowed down rain as it pummeled the ground during the storm that hit June 4.

While touring the Hurley Creek flood control structure, Goldsmith said reports in the north part of Creston for rainfall June 4 was between 6 and 9 inches.

Hurley Creek flood control structure was installed in1976 as a joine effort of the City of Creston, Southern Iowa RCand D and the Union County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The drainage area of 478 acres id mostly cropland. When the structure filled, the water ran through the emergency spillway, north of Townline Street.

"There was flooding damage below this structure along the Hurley Creek channel," said Goldsmith. "The damage was a fraction of what the potential was without this structure."

Other areas on the tour included Mitchell Marsh dam, Green Valley Watershed, and Three Mile and Twelve Mile watersheds.

The practices observed within those watersheds included terraces, grassed waterways, no-till fields and retaining pools used to slow the release of excessive rainfall.

"A lot of the time in Des Moines, we are dealing with this stuff in theory. It helps us to see it," said Northey. "The impact on the cities, the impact on the counties, those are things we have to think about as we are trying to allocate our tight resources."

"We need to be doing a better job of telling the story," said Northey. "That's what we need to be doing out of the Department of Agriculture."

Education is a key to letting people know what needs to be done to prevent further soil erosion and nutrient loss.

"We've got more work to do," said Northey. "What we need to do is to educate more people so they understand what's going on out there."

It's evident when driving through the countryside to see grassed waterways or terraces and realize they are helping to keep the soil where it's supposed to be Northey said.

"I look at stuff when I drive around and I see things that are working," said Doug Jones, chairman of Union County Soil and Water Conservation District. "If we can hold that stuff back it's money in the ground. I see practices that are working."

Conservation practices within the watersheds hold down the amount of erosion during heavy rains.

Union County Supervisor Bob Brown said the county road infrastructure has benefited from the conservation practices by reducing damage to roads from flooding.

Goldsmith did point out some areas where ephemeral (lasting a short time) gully erosion cuts ruts in fields that are in need of conservation practices.

This erosion sends soil into waterways where it is lost.

"Watershed projects functioned as planned," said Goldsmith. "Damages to cropland and roads in Three Mile and Twelve Mile watersheds was much less than damages in uncontrolled watersheds in the county."

"We can see this stuff is working," said Northey. "We still have work to do."

Valarie Allen can be reached at

782-2141, ext. 233 or

[email protected]


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