Summer 2003: Newsletter 2003-3
Project AWARE: Float Trip with a Purpose
by Joe Wilkinson
As another canoe slid over the shallow, rocky riffle, it glided into deeper water. For a second. With a metallic `thump,' it hit another rock and hung up. The current turned it broadside. It wavered for a moment before spilling its human cargo waist deep into the Maquoketa River above Manchester. Barb Cooey, of Dubuque, was stoic, but unharmed by the cold water dip as she and her partner pulled the canoe over to the shore checkpoint. Just another watery casualty from Project AWARE, held June 1-8 on the Maquoketa River.
About 50 participants started the event and are joined by a few day-trippers as their flotilla moved through Jones, Delaware, and Jackson counties toward the confluence with the Mississippi River. Most were experienced canoeists and expected to get wet. And there was plenty of it, as they skirted snags, sweepers and `cross stream' fences on the Maquoketa. Mixing recreation and scenery with environmental awareness, organizers foresee making it an annual event.
"The event went great," pronounced Brian Soenen, IOWATER Coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources, who developed the idea over the last few months. "The physical dictates might have been a little much, but everyone reacted well. With these things, you plan the best you can and adjust accordingly." Working with the DNR's Keepers of the Land volunteer program, county conservation boards, various sponsors and support people, paddlers bucked low water and light rain showers.
The Maquoketa water level had dropped four inches since a scouting trip a week prior. That meant frequent interruptions, to portage canoes and cargo on the shallower upper stretch. Adding to the mix was the weight of abandoned tires, lawn chairs, metal scraps, even a rusty hog waterer, found along the way. Newly strung fences, including a couple electric ones, also became hurdles. By late afternoon of the first day though, the river deepened and widened.
"The idea of the cleanup came to me while listening to Chad Pegracke at a Volunteers in Natural Resources Conference," explained Soenen. "If everybody would do their part, we would really see an improvement in the streams." Pegracke is a nationally acclaimed river cleanup legend, who has pulled many tons of debris from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. More importantly, he has spurred hundreds of volunteers to follow his lead.
Besides the floating trash detail, participants collected water quality samples along the way. "Things like clarity, dissolved oxygen levels, nitrates, flow rates, the `canopy' above, even the substrate (river bottom) and bugs that are found in sample areas," detailed DNR geologist Lynette Seigley of Iowa City. "They help point to the water quality." Some canoeists were water quality volunteers back in their hometowns, testing and advising state water officials about streams in their communities.
Participants sat through various evening programs offered each day. Geologist Mary Skopec offered an outline of stream and lake quality, especially tied to levels of nutrients coming off the watershed into streams and lakes. "Think of these things while you are going downstream," challenged Skopec, also of Iowa City and the DNR's Geological Survey. "Look at pipes ending in the stream. Observe the tributaries as they empty into the river; some will run clear. Some flow in muddy."
More than `just' a floating classroom, though, the surroundings make the trip worth the toil. Pat Schlarbaum pointed just off the stream bank where a Common Yellowthroat serenaded passing canoeists. While not rare, the small warbler was a bonus among all the deep green foliage on the trip. Schlarbaum kept his eyes peeled for signs of river otters. Paddlers are also assessing the merits of their crafts; from a 40-plus year old fiberglass Crestliner to kayak-type one-person deck canoes.
If it seemed like vacation to the participants&it was. They just learned and improved the river, as they went.
& lots more junk
. . . all pulled out of the Maquoketa River
. . . from IOWATER'S Coordinator
Introducing ... Me ... Again!
The ancient Roman writer Evenius once wrote, "The crowd gives the leader new strength." It's as true today as it was when it was written. Throughout the past year, I've had the opportunity to meet, greet and work with many of you. The dedication, motivation, patience, and passion of IOWATER volunteers is unmatched by any others. Your contributions to the IOWATER program, the state of Iowa, and to your communities continue to uphold the IOWATER mission, "To protect and improve Iowa's water quality..."
It has also been said that an army is only as strong as its weakest soldier. Fortunately, the hard work and commitment from my IOWATER coworkers, Jacklyn Neely and Lynette Seigley, and from supervisor Mary Skopec, provide a solid foundation for the program. With the guidance and input of the IOWATER committees, volunteers, and the Iowa DNR's Water Monitoring Section, we will continue the evolution of the IOWATER program and strive to meet tomorrow's challenges, today.
Surprise! Thanks to the creative eye of Iowa DNR publication designer Pat Lohmann, and to the economy of in-house printing, the IOWATER newsletter has been adorned with a technicolor dreamcoat - at about the same overall cost of our previous newsletters. We hope you enjoy the new style and encourage you to share the information with others. Happy Reading!
God's Gift of Water
I serve the Presbytery of North Central Iowa as its advocate for issues related to environmental justice. The Presbyterian churches within North Central Iowa range from Mason City to Ames, Fort Dodge to Waterloo, and places in-between. The Mission, Justice, and Stewardship Committee of NCI recently voted to make "water quality" a major emphasis of the presbytery in the coming years. This decision was based, in large part, on responses to an "Eco-Justice Questionnaire."
As its environmental justice advocate, my work will be to assist the presbytery and its congregations in taking action to care for God's gift of water. The following are a few thoughts I shared with my presbytery on why we, as Christians, have a responsibility to care for this gift.
Water is one of God's most important gifts for nurturing and sustaining life. It is the miracle of liquid water that most distinguishes this planet from every other body in the solar system. (Water exists on other planets, if at all, in the form of either vapor or ice.) With liquid water, there is life in all its richness and complexity. Without, nothing lives. If we care about life in any form (human, animal, plant), then we must take care of the water that God provides to make life possible.
Water is also one of God's most important gifts, we believe, for nurturing and sustaining our life in Christ. Following Christ's command, we baptize with water. In the waters of baptism we are buried with Christ in his death; from the waters of baptism we are raised to share in Christ's resurrection.
We usually ask about water, "Is it safe to drink?" But Christians should also ask, "Is it fit for baptism?" If not, why not?
Caring for water is one of the most important ways to care for our neighbor. Wherever we live - especially in Iowa - there is always someone else living downstream. That "someone else" may be the next farm, the next town, the next wildlife area, or the next state.
What is the quality of the water that we pass on to them after we have used it for recreation, agriculture, industry, or housekeeping? Are we creating problems for our neighbors downstream by the ways in which we use our water? Is God's blessing to us of water still a blessing by the time it reaches our neighbors?
The Presbytery of North Central Iowa recognizes IOWATER as a very concrete, direct, and measurable way for churches to care for God's gift of water. [First Presbyterian Church of Mason City has sponsored a water monitoring team for the last three years.] To encourage more churches to become involved, the presbytery is now providing scholarships to IOWATER training.
Thanks to everyone at IOWATER!
Grants Sponsor Prairie High School Monitors
In 2000, a Water Quality Monitoring Project was started at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids, IA to allow students the opportunity to explore the status of Iowa's waters, particularly those in Prairie Creek, and to report their findings to businesses in the Cedar Rapids community, the Iowa Geological Survey, the Iowa DNR and the IOWATER database on the Internet. Grant monies amounting to $17,900 were written for and obtained from local and state businesses and agencies (See table below).
Over 175 high school students in biology, ecology, and earth/space science classes collected, analyzed, and documented stream water quality at three locations (Rural, Urban and Industrial) on Prairie Creek. For the past 3 years the students have been gathering data on the biological components and stream habitat in the fall and spring, and monthly, they obtain data on the physical characteristics and water chemistry and discover how land use practices impact water quality. We conservatively estimate that our students have spent over 3,100 hours in volunteer water quality monitoring for the state of Iowa in the past 3 years. Data gathered have been reported to the IOWATER database on the Internet.
Students present their findings using PowerPoint and video production (movies made with i-movie) on an annual basis to an audience of interested citizens, administrators, state and federal agencies, and business partners. This year, the students will present to the Linn County Soil and Water Conservation Board. Recently, five of the students have become Level 1 certified as IOWATER water quality monitors and plan to continue volunteer monitoring after graduation.
Grants totaling nearly $18,000 were awarded to Sharon Bender's class to help finance their monitoring efforts.
We'd like to hear from you, so send us a note... about your IOWATER activities, thoughts, and ideas ...in your own words.
Press releases, events, & news articles involving IOWATER monitors - Many thanks to all of you for your continued efforts.
Compiled by Jacklyn Neely, IOWATER Field Coordinator
IOWATER 2003 Level I Workshop Schedule
IOWATER Advanced Workshops*
The registration fee is $10 for each of the advanced workshops. This covers all program fees, meals, and testing equipment. To register for any of these modules, please complete and send in this registration form. (It is also a good idea to make a copy for your records.) You will be sent confirmation, maps, and more information when paid registrations are received.
____ July 18 6 - 10 p.m. Nishna Bend Recreation Area, Harlan
Secondary Educators Module (Indicate the workshop of your choice.)
Checks are payable to Iowa DNR ($10 for each advanced workshop)
Send To: Jacklyn Neely - IOWATER