Supervisors okay joining Beaver Creek watershed group

Greene County will join the new Beaver Creek watershed management authority, if only to keep a watchful eye on other members who may have more “urban” interests.

The county board of supervisors approved a 28E agreement to participate in the Beaver Creek Watershed Management Authority, which will include eastern portions of Paton, Junction and Washington Townships in Greene County, as well as portions of Boone, Dallas and Polk Counties. The supervisors received information from Mark Land of the engineering and planning firm of Snyder & Associates two weeks ago.

A watershed management authority seeks to assess and reduce flood risk; assess and improve water quality; monitor federal flood risk planning and activities; education residents of the watershed regarding flood risks and water quality; and allocate moneys made available to the authority for the proposes of water quality and flood mitigation. A primary reason for organizing a watershed management authority is to access state and federal funds.

There are 25 jurisdictions within the boundaries of the Beaver Creek watershed. They include Polk County, Des Moines, Urbandale and Johnston. It’s their participation, and the fact that Polk County is paying Snyder & Associates to organize the watershed, that makes the supervisors nervous.

Supervisors John Muir and Tom Contner raised their concerns when Land spoke with them in October. “This issue we have is that you mentioned Polk County and somebody else… not that our interests are totally different than theirs, but they may be varied as far as how we view agriculture,” Muir said.

Land answered that each jurisdiction has one vote, without regard to population or the acreage involved. “Everybody sits at the table and talks about what’s the best thing. Given the list of jurisdictions you have, just in terms of numbers, there are a lot more people that would have more agricultural interests than urban interests,” Land said.

There is no financial obligation at this time. Land said not joining would be a bigger risk than joining and not having a voice in any decision-making.

Supervisor Dawn Rudolph reminded the supervisors of an invitation to join the Middle Raccoon watershed a few years ago. She attended organizational meetings, but the county decided not to join because of a financial commitment and because of what was perceived as an “agenda” of Des Moines Water Works, which is also a member.

At the Nov. 9 meeting Contner said again that joining with the urban interests scares him. “It scares me, too, but do we want someone making decisions for us?” Rudolph said. “I’m wondering if this should be something that we get on board with to see where they’re headed, and then we can decide. If we don’t like it, we can get out…. I’m not saying I’m for it, but I want to know what they’re up to… Now while there’s no money involved, there’s no risk.”

“I can’t understand why Polk County hired the firm to put this out there unless they’ve got an alternative motive…. You know how politics works,” Contner said.

Muir said there are many watershed management authorities in the state. He said he thinks that monitoring Beaver Creek and Snake Creek for nitrates is one of the goals. “I’m not sure that’s a bad thing for us to know,” he said.

Rudolph agreed. “We may have good results from that. It may not be against us,” she said.

Guy Richardson made the motion to approve the 238E agreement and Mick Burkett seconded. The vote on the motion was four to one, with Contner dissenting. “I just trust them,” Contner said.

 

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