Thursday, September 30, 2010


Iowater is a volunteer water quality monitoring group. Interesting information here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Beautiful Weekend @ Silver Lake

Pelican Party at Silver Lake!

Total Maximum Daily Load for Algae & Turbidity - Silver Lake

From Iowa Department of Natural Resources
TMDL & Water Quality Assessment Section - 2004

The Federal Clean Water Act requires the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to develop a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for waters that have been identified on the state’s 303(d) list as impaired by a pollutant. Silver Lake has been identified as impaired by algae and turbidity. The purpose of these TMDLs for
Silver Lake is to calculate the maximum allowable nutrient loading for the lake associated with algae and turbidity levels that will meet water quality standards.

This document (link above) consists of TMDLs for algae and turbidity designed to provide Silver Lake water quality that fully supports its designated uses. Phosphorus, which is related through the Trophic State Index (TSI) to chlorophyll and Secchi depth, is targeted to address the algae and turbidity impairments.

Understanding Iowa's Impaired Waters Lists

You've likely heard of Iowa's many "impaired" waters. But what makes a water impaired, and more importantly, what can we do to take streams and lakes off the list?
Each lake and stretch of stream or river in Iowa is designated for a specific use, like for contact recreation such as swimming or fishing; for drinking water; or for maintaining a healthy population of fish and other aquatic life. If the water quality in the stream or lake does not allow it to meet its designated use, it does not meet Iowa's water quality standards and is considered "impaired."
The waterbody is then placed on the "303(d)" list, commonly known as the "impaired waters list." This is named after section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act and means that the stream or lake needs a water quality improvement plan written.

Once on the 303(d) list, a water quality improvement plan is written. The plan outlines the water quality problems, identifies the needed reductions in pollutants and offers possible solutions. Waters that have a water quality improvement plan written for them move off the 303(d) list, or impaired waters list.
Even though it's off the 303(d) list, the waterbody is still considered impaired until water quality improves. Local groups need to take action and work with the DNR to improve their stream or lake.
Local action can lead to improved water quality, which can help the stream or lake meet state water quality standards again. When the waterbody meets those standards, it may be able to come off the impaired waters list.

Final 2008 Impaired Waters in Iowa: 439

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service - Palo Alto County EQIP

Palo Alto County  - Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)


The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. This program is available to farmers and offers financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

The following are Palo Alto County resource concerns to be addressed by EQIP:
  • Soil Condition-Organic Matter Depletion, Animal Waste and Other Organics (N, P, K)
  • Soil Erosion-Sheet and Rill
  • Soil Erosion-Ephemeral Gully
  • Soil Erosion-Classic Gully
  • Water Quality-Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Groundwater
  • Water Quality-Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Surface Water
  • Water Quality- Excessive Suspended Sediment and Turbidity in Surface Water
  • Water Quality Harmful Levels of Pathogens in Surface Water
  • Water Quantity – Inefficient Water Use on Irrigated Land, Drifted Snow
  • Plant Condition – Productivity, Health, and Vigor, Forage Quality and Palatability
  • Domestic Animals – Inadequate Quantities and Quality of Feed and Forage, Inadequate Stock Water, Inadequate Shelter
  • Fish & Wildlife – Inadequate Cover/Shelter, Inadequate food, T & E species
  • Air Quality – Adverse Air Temperature, PM 2.5, Objectionable Odors.    
These resource concerns address the following National EQIP priorities:  
  1. Reduction of non-point source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), where available, as well as the reduction of groundwater contamination and the conservation of ground and surface water resources.
  2. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable high levels on agricultural land.
The goal of the locally led group was to recommend a ranking system that rewarded and gave priority to those producers that address the above resource concerns. Further, the local work group prioritized one item-natural lake watersheds. Applications located within the watersheds of all natural lakes in Palo Alto County including Five Island Lake, Silver Lake, Rush Lake, Virgin Lake and Lost Island Lake will rank with priority points. The ranking will be completed for the specific practices to be applied through the EQIP contract. Sign-up is continuous at the NRCS field office. Application ranking will be done periodically as funding allocations become available, will be announced through the NRCS State Office, and will be publicized by all levels of NRCS. The NRCS may establish local, minimum ranking cut-off levels for funding selection.

The local work group also recommended a list of conservation practices that are the most cost-effective, longest duration and address these priority resource concerns in the district. Based on agency directive, nutrient management standard 590 will be offered using the concept of management intensity which offers a larger payment for more environmental performance. 

Agency maximums have been incorporated for payments associated with Residue and Tillage Management Standard 329 (No-Till/Strip-Till) and Nutrient Management 590. The payment is limited to no more than 3 years of payments. For grazing contracts, no more than $50,000 in payment will be permitted. All individual practices are limited to a $75,000 cap. Also based on statewide guidance, Historically Underserved Producers will receive a higher payment of EQIP funding on specified practices. Conservation practices applied with EQIP funds are to be maintained for the service life of the practice, which may be longer than the term of the EQIP contract.

For more information on EQIP and other NRCS administrated programs contact the Palo Alto County USDA Service Center located at 3302 West Main Street (Highway 18), Emmetsburg, IA  50536. Phone (712) 852-3386, Ext. 3; Fax (712) 852-4906.

Silver Lake History by I.A. Schoonmaker

A few statements about Silver Lake found on 
by I.A. Schoonmaker "who was a bona fide pioneer of Ayrshire and surrounding areas and at times published the newspaper in Ayrshire - among other things."

"In the fall of 1879 was the first time I was ever at Silver Lake. Just before corn husking, I went to the south end of the lake and on a large hill, owned by Grandfather Whitman at the time, was about 100 sandhill cranes and plenty of white cranes too. Wild geese and gray and white brants were very thick here at times."

"Fish Story Way Back When - Now here is a fish story - one day in the spring of 1886, I was training a horse to trot and I drove out to Silver Lake and when I got there I saw a spectacular sight which clings to my memory. There was about two acres of water covered with buffalo fish. They were pushing each other out of the water and onto the bank. So I drove back to Ayrshire and got my four-tined fork and back to the lake I went as fast as the horse could trot. After tying the horse, I ran to the water's edge and with one thrust of the fork, landed a fish so big I could hardly lift it on the fork. The actual weight of it was twenty-five and one quarter pounds. That was a big one that never got away."

Iowa DNR - Silver Lake Watershed Project

Watersheds and nonpoint pollution
The major water quality problem in Iowa is nonpoint source pollution, and it has landed a number of streams and lakes on Iowa's impaired waters list.

Nonpoint source pollution happens when rainfall, snowmelt or irrigation water runs over land or through the ground and picks up pollutants and deposits them into streams, lakes or groundwater. Those pollutants include excess soil, bacteria and nutrients (from farm fertilizers and manure).
Keeping these pollutants out of our water is important for many reasons. Humans depend on clean water for drinking water and recreation like swimming, boating and fishing. Aquatic life, such as fish, depend on clean water to survive.

Nonpoint source pollution can come from practically any outdoor area that comes into contact with running water, unlike point source pollution, which can be traced back to a specific location or "point," such as an industrial facility, wastewater treatment plant, etc.

The area that nonpoint source pollution comes from is called a "watershed," which is an area of land that drains into a lake or stream. To truly improve Iowa's water quality, we need to clean up watersheds to keep sediment, nutrients and bacteria from washing into streams and lakes.

Follow these links for information on Silver Lake from the Iowa DNR:

2008 Accomplishments of the Silver Lake Water Quality Project as reported by Palo Alto SWCD

Developed 4 press releases:
·   Public meeting explaining the project objectives
·   Kick off of the project
·   OSWAP program  for Palo Alto County
·   BMP Challenge meeting

Held 2 public meetings:
·   Held in Ayrshire @ the Legion explaining the project
·   Held @ Iowa Lakes Community College regarding the BMP Challenge, no-till / strip till incentives in the 5 county area, and the Iowa Soybean Association watershed programs.

Enrolled 65 acres for the no-till / strip-till state incentive program within the watershed, and promoted the enrollment of 178 additional acres outside the watershed.

Completed a wetland restoration project on 2.6 acres.
Enrolled 10.9 acres in the CRP CP-21 Filter strip program.

Enrolled 7.1 acres of CP-33 CRP Buffer program.

Installed 11 rock inlets in the watershed using PACGDC funds.

Sent information to lakeside residents pertaining to good lawn care techniques by reducing the use of commercial fertilizers and chemicals.

Sent information to all producers in the watershed regarding no-till / strip till incentives.

Sent information on the CP-38 SAFE program to 47 producer in the watershed.

Signed on a CREP site - intent to continue - for the completion of the survey to be complete during the fall of 2008.

Gave an oral report at the annual SWCD banquet in addition to a written report for the annual SWCD newsletter.

Met quarterly with the advisory committee.

Contacted the landowner and “new” tenant about getting started with the solar watering system. They met at the area but got rained out. Made contacts with the DNR as to the chances of getting a cistern type well. It does not appear this can be done. Have also talked with a local resident about avg. well depth and the idea of drilling a well. This lead to the speculation of connecting to the electrical line that is approx 500 feet off the pasture property line. We are still considering all options with the focus remaining on getting the cows/calves out of the lake.

Sent meeting information regarding the Pasture and Grazing seminar to area cattlemen.

Began a water monitoring program partnering with the Iowa Soybean Association.

Contacted the County Engineer for ideas on improving the sediment catching ability of the creek feeding Silver Lake entering on the north side of the lake. He has not gotten back due to local water problems. He will call when he goes to look things over.

After a no-till review, it appears as if the no-till acres have increased from 600 acres in 2005 to 1160 acres in 2008. This also include fields where the residue is 50% and above. It can be difficult when producer roll the fields after planting to know exactly what the practice is. This is an increase of approximately 1%.

2009 Report of Accomplishments of the Silver Lake Water Quality Project as reported by Palo Alto SWCD

Developed 4 press releases:
·  Public meeting regarding general CRP information as well as Mid Contract Management options
·  Successes report for FFY 2008
·  Public Meeting regarding no-till /strip-till partnering with the Iowa Soybean Association
·  Entering Silver Lake Watershed signage for the DNR website

Held 2 public meetings:
·  Mid contract Management / general CRP informational meeting held at the Nature Center. 35 were in attendance.
·  No –till / strip-till meeting held at Iowa Lakes Community College with over 120 producers and students from the college in attendance.

Attended the Spring 2009 coordinators meeting held in Ames, a burn training meeting held in O’Brien County, a RUSLE 2 training held in Spencer. Also completed the Security Awareness program in the office as required.

Presented at the area 2 Spring Regional meeting regarding outside funds used for our project.

Attended the NRCS Area 1 awards day on Sept. 16. Coordinator Don Hagen was presented an award for “Recognition of excellent technical assistance provided to customers with conservation planning and application of practices to address their resource concerns”.

Attended a weekly meeting of the Palo Alto County supervisors giving them updates about our project. Coordinator was given 10 minutes on the agenda, but with very good discussion, we were there 30 minutes. 3 of the supervisors are new and were not aware of the project, so many questions were asked. All were greatly supportive of the project.

Assisted Urban Conservationist at an Emmetsburg City Council meeting. The focus was a piece of property located on Five Island Lake which the City had purchased. They had development questions and conservation questions regarding the Golf Course and surrounding area. We went over the things they need to keep in mind if any development was completed. Also,  mentioned the conservation issues and possibilities which they could consider.

Assisted the Emmetsburg City Economic Development Director and State Urban Conservationist with planting root balls in the catch basin @ the new City Industrial Park. The SWCD also presented the City with the annual Friend of Conservation award at the Annual Banquet. Got press coverage including pictures for our help.

Watershed boundary signs were installed on hard surface roads entering the Silver Lake Watershed.

Went door-to-door to the lake side residents with flyers promoting Green and Grow, a phosphorus free soy based fertilizer.

Had a booth at the ILCC Farm Lab Field Day held annually. Tracy Blackmor of the Iowa Soybean Association highlighted test results on nitrogen rates. Approximately 250 producers attend the event.

Provided an oral report at the SWCD annual banquet. Highlight of the report was reporting a reduction in sediment entering Silver Lake totaling 125 tons. This equals a 17 % decrease in total sediment entering Silver Lake according to pre-application figures.

Sent out 7 additional estimates to producers in the watershed that showed interest in the CRP - SAFE program.

Approached 3 producers about participating in a residue count - post planting - program sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association. 1 is willing to participate. The other 2 already have liquid manure applied and are no longer in a no-till situation. Coordinator did get 4 participants from outside the watershed to participate.

Attended a High School Ag class educating them on BMP’S and other conservation practices. This was very well received and led to a field trip the next week to actually see some of the practices coordinator talked about. 

Assisted 4 producers in taking 6 stalk tests on manure applied acres as well as commercial applied acres. Results showed very low nitrogen levels in the manure applied fields. The exception is where an additional 140 units of 28% was added. The commercial applied fields were very high in nitrogen levels. A winter meeting is being planned around these results.

Began re-sending estimates using the current FSA rental rates. Have heard back from 1 producer that may be interested in an easement buyout or total buyout. This would be
approximately 5 acres of lakeshore currently used for crop production. The area would provide an excellent buffer for runoff as well as eliminate the use of fertilizers and chemicals directly adjacent to the lake.

Had a pre-survey meeting with the CREP team, landowner, and NRCS. We looked on-site and everyone was very positive about the site. There is a public water line present which will need to be considered, but other than that, things continue to look very positive for this practice.

Enrolled .7 acres of waterways (3)  The contract started Jan. 1, 2009

Set up a pre-construction meeting for the 3 waterways being built this spring.

Had a CREP meeting in our office with Salton (in watershed) and Opheim (outside watershed) Both producers are continuing on with their project.

Coordinator worked at the Palo Alto County fair booth for both the PACCB and SWCD.

Assisted NRCS with the ILCC Soils Judging Clinic. Approximately 150 high school students attended representing 15 School Districts.

Water sampled the tributary entering the lake. Reasoning for this was to check after manure was applied in the area. Coordinator took the sample directly to Mangold lab in Storm Lake. Results were very good. Total Phosphorus = 0.05 mg/L and Ammonia Nitrogen <0.3 mg/L. According to the lab technician, these are very low results.

Enrolled 65 acres for the no-till / strip-till state incentive program within the watershed, and promoted the enrollment of 178 additional acres outside the watershed.

Enrolled 8.3 acres in the SAFE program

Enrolled 7.1 acres of CP-33 CRP Buffer program

Sent information to all producers in the watershed regarding no-till / strip till incentives.

Sent information on the planter clinic and MCM meeting to 48 producers in the watershed.

Met quarterly with the advisory committee

The biggest challenge once again is competing with commodity prices and land values. Producers are still excited about the profits they are making within their farming operation as compared to the past several years. Although, we do have the same interested producer that want to have an impact on water quality and take pride in doing so. A few are interested in bioreactors and would like to try a demonstration project. We seem to get a new contract for no-till each year, and expect this to be on-going due to the success of these producers. With the help of the Iowa Learning Farm, our area is having good success with no-till  / strip-till meetings getting information to interested producers. They also have mentoring / networking ideas which are being used.

The most exciting thing for this year has to be enrolling a CREP site. Initial reduction estimates of 356 tons of  N over 150 year lifetime of the wetland and 407 tons/year reduction in sediment loading into Silver Lake. Construction of this site is expected to begin this fall. (09)

2010 Report of Accomplishments of the Silver Lake Water Quality Project as reported by Palo Alto SWCD

Developed 3 press releases:
·         CREP project
·         Strip-till / no-till field day @ ILCC
·         Project update meeting

Held 4 public meetings:
·         Project update meeting
·         No-till / strip-till meeting w / Iowa Learning Farm @ ILCC
·         CREP informational meeting
·         Project Annual meeting

Enrolled 100 acres for the no-till / strip-till state incentive program within the watershed, and promoted the enrollment of 200 additional acres outside the watershed.

Enrolled 26.2 acres in the CREP program.

Re-enrolled 21 acres of CP-21 CRP filter strip.

Signed up 2 producers to install water ways in the fall of 2010. Tile work is complete and the application has been accepted. Both producers will enroll in CRP for cost / share and annual payments.

Completed a phosphorus free lawn fertilizer promotion to lakeside residents. This included an offer to soil test their yards. Ag Partners assisted with equipment and paying for the tests.

Began work on the bio-reactor. We probed tile and the landowner has a contractor lined up. We hope to begin construction in June, 2010.

Sent information to all producers in the watershed regarding no-till / strip till incentives.

Sent information on the no-till / strip-till meeting to 47 producers in the watershed

CREP site construction is underway and expected to be finished by mid summer.

Gave an oral report at the annual SWCD banquet in addition to a written report for the annual SWCD newsletter.

Met quarterly with the advisory committee.

Went door-to-door to the lake side residents with flyers promoting Green and Grow, a phosphorus free soy based fertilizer.

Had a booth at the ILCC Farm Lab Field Day.  Approximately 250 producers attended the event.

Gave an oral report at the annual SWCD banquet in addition to a written report for the annual SWCD newsletter.

Continued a water monitoring program partnering with the Iowa Soybean Association.

Attended a weekly meeting of the Palo Alto County supervisors giving them updates about our project.

Installed a sign on the CREP site with everyone’s log who is involved with our project.

Investigated the feasibility of a complete commercial sewer system for the new development area. After contacts were made it was decided that it is not feasible because several residents already had their own septic systems installed. Also, the county sanitarian and Clay Rural Water met on site to study the soils and their ability to drain properly for leach beds. In their opinion, available soils for leach bed are proper and safe for the lake.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


All of us on the Silver Lake Improvement Committee in Palo Alto County (SLIP-PA) are glad you've stopped by to learn more about this exciting project we are working on, as well as the history of Silver Lake just outside of Ayrshire, Iowa.

We expect great things to happen and, in fact, changes have already taken place through the Silver Lake Watershed Project. According to information from the Iowa DNR, this project works on installing grade stabilization structures, filter strips, wetlands, tillage practices, and livestock management to help reduce sediment to the lake. Grade stabilizer structures have already been installed to slow water flow, thus reducing erosion.

The Spencer Daily Reporter reported on 10/9/09 that "studies show that Silver Lake originally had an average 10-foot depth, with maximum depths up to 14 or 15 feet." Currently the lake has an maximum depth of 6 feet, with an average of only 4 feet. This reduction in depth is caused by the sediment that has washed into the lake over the years. Many reasons cause this sediment in the lake, including early-farming practices.

Also stated in the Spencer article - "The introduction of carp, a rough fish that grows and multiplies quickly, often ruining vegetation and other fish habitat in a lake, has impacted Silver Lake's beauty." These issues also need to be addressed.
To read the full article:

Our goal as a group is to learn what the options are for improving Silver lake and then raising the funding to take action.

We invite everyone who uses Silver Lake to join us! We are close to being incorporated as a non-profit organization and have regular meetings which are informative, as well as fun! The bigger we can get as a group, the more power there is behind the numbers.