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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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Monitoring Control Box

Update: November 2016 - Reasons to be thankful

By Amy Yoakum, Natural Resource Specialist

It’s that time of year to think of things we are thankful for! Maybe even time for a pat on the back and a good old-fashioned high five. SCC is thankful for NITRATE REDUCTION! An exciting development in our Hickory Grove Lake watershed project is the nitrate reduction that resulted from installing a saturated buffer. What is a saturated buffer you may be asking? Agricultural tile lines are intercepted before they outlet into a stream or water body. The tile water is diverted through lateral control structures which are buried parallel to the stream, and native vegetation is planted over the laterals (in our case 400 feet of pipe). Tile water slowly exits the laterals and is filtered by the root system of the plants. That filtering reduces the amount of nitrates entering the water. Our saturated buffer also had a control box installed so a variety of water samples and flow rates could be collected.

Dan Jaynes, a Soil Scientist with the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, oversaw the buffer installation and is in charge of monitoring efforts. Monitoring began in June; the flow in the control box was recorded hourly, and water samples were collected bi-weekly from the tile, stream, and monitoring wells. The water samples were analyzed for nitrates following EPA protocol. From mid-July to mid-November, a staggering 30 million gallons of water drained from the field tile. 23% of that water (7 million gallons) was redirected into the saturated buffer. Our goal for nitrate reduction through the grant project is 115 pounds/year. In five short months, we have kept 85 pounds of nitrates from entering Hickory Grove Lake by using this innovative edge-of-field practice. Something to be thankful for, indeed!

A special thanks goes out to Dan and his lab!


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

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.


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