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IOWATER Volunteer of the Year

Rick Dietz

The IOWATER Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Rick Dietz from Ames, Iowa. Rick tends to take a behind-the-scenes approach to his volunteer efforts; he’s a classic lead-byexample type of guy. As an active member of the Skunk River Paddlers, Central Iowa Paddlers, Squaw Creek Watershed Coalition, and Skunk River Navy, Rick has been known to volunteer for nearly anything and everything that’s river-related – especially when it comes to his hometown stream, the Skunk River. Rick has always had an affinity for rivers, but a decade ago, when Rick signed on with the Skunk River Navy, he really began in earnest to protect and improve Iowa’s water quality. Since that time, Rick has dedicated many hours to the numerous organizations in central Iowa that focus on cleaning up our state’s waters. Most recently, Mr. Dietz organized a wildly successful snapshot sampling event on Squaw Creek and its tributaries, and has been instrumental in working with the Iowa DNR’s Water Trails Program to initiate a dams-to-rapids conversion project in Story City on the Skunk River. As a paddling enthusiast, Rick cares deeply about Iowa’s rivers.



IOWATER Professional of the Year

Steve Witmer

The IOWATER Professional of the Year award was presented to Steve Witmer, a Planning Assistant for the City of Johnston. Since completing an IOWATER workshop in 2003, Mr. Witmer has taken water monitoring to a whole new level. He started by hosting a workshop in 2004, quickly moved to coordinating the Beaver Creek watershed snapshot event later that year, and organized two citizen efforts to raise awareness and initiate water quality projects within this watershed – WATCH (Watershed Awareness, Testing, Cleanup, and Habitat protection) and WAVE (Watershed Action Visioning Efforts). Still not satisfied with only these activities, Steve coordinated an additional snapshot sampling event on the North Raccoon River, and when he’s not coordinating snapshots or leading meetings, he’s participating in others’ activities. Steve is a dedicated professional, volunteer, and coordinator. He truly cares about water quality, the snapshots he is involved with, the volunteers, and the future of Iowa’s natural resources.



IOWATER Classroom of the Year

Laura Cady and the North Cedar Middle School 6th Grade Biology Class

The IOWATER Classroom of the Year award was presented to Laura Cady and the North Cedar Middle School 6th Grade Biology Class. Stepping into another’s shoes can be difficult, especially if you’re the new kid on the block. However, Laura took the reigns as the 6th Grade science teacher at the North Cedar Middle School, and not only stepped into the shoes, but ran the extra mile in them. Each month during the school year, Ms. Cady organizes a field trip for all 75 sixth graders to monitor their site on nearby Mill Creek. Once on site, the students congregate into five groups, each with specific tasks. By rotating groups each month, all students learn about and apply techniques involved in all stream assessments. Students are required to keep a record of their data each month, and compare it with those from previous years to observe changes or patterns in the stream’s quality. By engaging them in the monitoring of Mill Creek, Ms. Cady fosters a sense of stewardship in her students, many of whom take personal responsibility for the quality of this stream and will take these experiences with them through life to draw upon when they have some big shoes to fill.



IOWATER Event of the Year  

  Don Propst and his Clean Rivers Team

(Photo - Brian Soenen, Don Propst and Dennis Zeliad)

The IOWATER Event of the Year award was presented to Don Propst and his Clean Rivers Team. If rivers could speak, what would they say? According to the plaque on the bridge at Gray’s Lake in Des Moines, the Raccoon River says, “Thanks Don Propst.” Forever branded on aluminum and perched over an oxbow that was once home to the river’s main channel, these words salute an individual who has given back to the river that has given him so much. In the fall of 2005, Don decided to follow his dream: to dedicate his life’s work to cleaning up Iowa’s rivers. Working with the Iowa Whitewater Coalition, Don started the Clean Rivers Team and dedicated 2006 to cleaning up 113 miles of the North Raccoon River, and challenging Iowans to keep rivers clean, combat illegal dumping, and promote water quality improvements. Don not only spent nearly all of his time cleaning the river, but he also inspired others to help as well. Longtime friend Dennis Zeliad helped Don with day-to-day activities, and over the course of the year, Don and Dennis coordinated three community-based cleanups in Sac City, Perry, and Booneville. The Clean Rivers Team, however, is only part of Don’s story. Since volunteering for Project AWARE in 2004, Don has participated in nearly every major cleanup event in Iowa. He routinely monitors four sites in the Fourmile Creek watershed, and is a familiar face at central Iowa snapshot sampling events. Attitudes like Don’s are contagious – spreading quickly to other people and to other communities, inspiring them to protect their environments and improve their quality of life.


IOWATER Watershed Group of the Year  

  North Raccoon Watershed Association

(Photo - Left to Right - Brian Soenen and NRWA Board Members Jim Riggs, Mike Delaney & Larry Wilson)

The IOWATER Watershed Group of the Year award was presented to Mike Delaney and the North Raccoon Watershed Association. In March of 2005, eight landowners, paddlers, and friends of the river launched the association, which is dedicated to the stewardship of the North Raccoon River. They seek to preserve and enhance the river and its watershed, strive to improve the recreational qualities of the area, and to engage its members in education, networking, cleanup, assessment, and policy making to achieve these ends. With over 150 members, the association has made a huge splash in Iowa. In just two years, the association has created the Raccoon River Water Trail, conducted a river cleanup, coordinated the first annual Paddle Fest in Adel, initiated the North Raccoon watershed snapshot, and constructed a river access and portage around the Adel dam. The group’s motto, “Fix it and they will come back,” recognizes the threatened status of the Raccoon and the importance of improving its water quality.