(The Center Square) – Projects addressing water infrastructure and water quality will receive $100 million in funding, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday.
The Iowa Finance Authority will provide $75 million for the Water Infrastructure Fund through federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars, a news release said. The funding will support projects that are meant to reduce excess nutrients, improve drought resiliency, reduce flood risks, improve public health, promote reuse of water and wastewater, and economically benefit communities and the state.
Applications open December 15.
“We recognize the value and importance of water quality and what that means to families, businesses and economic prosperity for our state,” Reynolds said. “That’s why we remain committed to improving Iowa’s water quality and providing these historic investments to local communities, landowners and organizations that aim to protect, preserve and restore Iowa’s water resources.”
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Conservation Infrastructure Project will receive $25 million. The project is a public-private partnership that advances the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which assesses and reduces nutrient loads in surface water, Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico.
“In doing so, improvements will be made in priority watersheds to improve water quality, habitat, recreation opportunities and carbon sequestration,” the release said.
Reynolds boasted about her record on investment in water quality and conservation in the news release.
“We’re not done yet,” she said. “The first bill that I signed into law as Governor was Senate File 512—providing long-term dedicated funding for water quality; and since then, I’ve signed into law a 10-year extension to keep building on Iowa’s strong record of conservation. This additional funding will provide even more cost-share incentives for Iowa’s farmers and landowners to accelerate construction of conservation practices and improve water quality.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig thanked Reynolds for the support.
“These additional resources will build on the momentum that’s been achieved with dedicated funding from the Iowa Legislature and Governor Reynolds, and help even more farmers and landowners implement proven conservation practices,” he said in a news release.
Naig said the state has 110 known water quality wetlands, and 40 more are under construction. At least 47 saturated buffers and 18 bioreactors were added in 2021, and farmers are planting more than 2 million acres of cover crops, he said.
“This new funding will help farmers and landowners add even more conservation practices and continue to make measurable progress toward the goals outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” he said.
The department announced December 1 that farmers who planted fall cover crops can apply by January 14 for Iowa’s cover crop insurance discount program. Eligible farmers and landowners can receive a $5 per acre discount on spring crop insurance premiums. The acres cannot be enrolled in any other state or federal cost share program.
Cover crops prevent soil erosion and reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loads by about 30%, which helps improve water quality. About 1,700 farmers have enrolled nearly 700,000 acres of cover crops in the program, the release said. Certain insurance policies are excluded, and participants must follow farming practices their policies mandate and work with insurance agencies to remain eligible.
Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, told KWWL in a statement that Iowans should thank U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, for being the sole supporter of the American Rescue Plan Act.
As the Des Moines Register reported, Iowa is expected to receive about $638 million in funding for water and wastewater improvements over the next five years, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced earlier this month that Iowa would receive more than $110 million through the law.