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Hickory Grove Watershed Project
This action plan was created in an effort to enhance water quality, improve safety, and reduce bacteria at the beach at Hickory Grove Park.


The Hickory Grove Lake Watershed Management Action Plan was prepared by:
        Aaron Andrews - Hickory Grove Lake Watershed Coordinator, Iowa State
        Dr. Michelle Soupir  - Assistant Professor in Ag and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State
        Rohith Gali - Graduate Student in Ag and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State

Download copy here:
Hickory Grove Lake Action Plan

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Update: June 2016

By Amy Yoakum, Natural Resource Specialist

Work is wrapping up on the first phase of the Hickory Grove Watershed Improvement Project. Major tasks for the Watershed Improvement Review Board (WIRB) and Iowa Department of Natural Resources grants are almost complete. Those tasks included: stream restoration and bank stabilization, cattle exclusion, the creation of a grade stabilization structure, septic system upgrades, and the installation of a saturated buffer. As you can see, the seeded vegetation is greening up nicely, and there is a dramatic difference in the stream with the banks stabilized.  All of the septic system upgrades included in the grant project are complete, the grant provided cost-share for 9 septic systems. Once the fencing is installed, the cows will return to enjoy their new pasture outside of the stream.

SCC staff is making plans for the next phase of the Hickory Grove Watershed Improvement Plan. In-park gullies will be stabilized, and highly erosive shoreline areas will be armored.


Hickory Grove Lake Watershed Project Update

By: Amy Yoakum, Natural Resource Specialist, Story County Conservation

A WIRB (Watershed Improvement Review Board) grant was received in July to improve water quality at Hickory Grove Lake.  The grant will fund practices on private property to reduce nutrient loading into the lake, specifically reducing levels of E. coli bacteria in the water.  Two projects are outlined in the grant: upgrading nine unpermitted septic systems in the lake’s watershed, and the exclusion of cattle from a stream.  Hickory Grove Lake was placed on the Iowa Impaired Waters list in 2008 because of high levels of E. coli bacteria.  Pinpointing the exact cause of the bacteria in the water is difficult at best; therefore we are focusing our efforts on every possible culprit including septic systems, livestock and Canada Geese.

Margaret Jaynes, Environmental Health Department Director, has been working with homeowners in the watershed to upgrade septic systems.  The grant provides 50% cost-share to bring unpermitted septic systems up to code.  To date, three septic systems have been replaced, and six more are funded through the grant.  A failing septic system not only releases E. coli bacteria, it also releases an estimated 12.5 pounds of phosphorus per year.  Excessive phosphorus in a water body can lead to algal blooms and low dissolved oxygen.

Livestock in waterways can contribute not only E. coli, but excessive sediment (soil) being washed into the lake.  Grant funds will restore and stabilize the stream channel, and provide fencing to exclude the cattle from entering it.  Cattle are not the only cause of sediment entering the lake.  Several gullies inside of Hickory Grove Park have severe erosion problems.  Story County Conservation staff are working to correct the gullies by removing invasive species and returning native vegetation to hold the soil in place.


WIRB grants are funded through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), and support projects that improve water quality and reduce flooding.  In 2014, six grant projects across the state were chosen to be funded, including Hickory Grove Lake.  Partners in the watershed project include: Story County Conservation, Story County Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa State University, Story County Board of Supervisors, Story County Board of Health, and private landowners.