Sioux County Gains New Watershed Coordinator

By Renee Wielenga, Staff writer, Sioux Center News
Appeared originally in Sioux Center News on 01/04/2017, page 7

More than 400 one-on-one visits with Sioux County landowners seems like a long list to accomplish. Colton Meyer, Sioux County's new watershed coordinator, thinks he's up for the task.

"It's my job to increase awareness and if one-on-one is what it takes, I'm glad to do it," he said.

The landowners he hopes to visit with own property within the West Branch of the Floyd River watershed mapped in 2013 as part of Iowa's Water Quality Initiative, which currently has 16 demonstration watershed projects and seven practice demonstration projects across the state. 

Each was set up as part of Iowa's nutrient reduction strategy — a science- and technology-based framework to assess and reduce nutrients to Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Floyd River Watershed was identified as a state-wide priority area in the nutrient reduction strategy due mainly to the fact that Sioux County boasts the highest concentration of livestock in the state," Meyer said. 

West Branch of the Floyd River Water Quality Initiative looks to showcase nutrient reduction practices with a special emphasis upon accelerating the adoption across abroad section of the agricultural community. The project engages both public and private agricultural entities to foster voluntary adoption of a variety of conservation practices.

"The primary goal of my job as coordinator is to increase the amount of best management practices implemented by escalating awareness through improved outreach,"Meyer said.

That includes bringing more awareness to crop farmers about terraces, cover crops, no-till, grassed waterways, filter strips and nutrient management.

"Such conservation practices are extremely important, not just because of the larger national picture of reducing nutrients getting into the Gulf of Mexico," Meyer said. "The topography and the landscape of the county is that it's highly susceptible to erosion whether it's from wind or water. Using these practices all can contribute to reducing the amount of nutrients that are lost into the water supply to have better land right here in the county."

Good soil health is key to a healthy crop.

"Taking care of our soil now ensures it's still there for future generations," Meyer said. 

Meyer, who graduated with an environmental science degree from Iowa State University in 2010, gained a greater appreciation for conservation after livestock and crop farming with his father and grandfather on the family's Century Farm near Everly the past four years.

Colton Meyer began work in November as Sioux County's new watershed coordinator. The primary goal his job is to increase the amount of best management practices implemented by escalating awareness through improved outreach. Photo by Renee Wielenga

Colton Meyer began work in November as Sioux County's new watershed coordinator. The primary goal his job is to increase the amount of best management practices implemented by escalating awareness through improved outreach. Photo by Renee Wielenga

"I've always loved the outdoors as a kid," he said. "I used to go camping with my grandparents and my dad got me into hunting and fishing. Looking toward college, I went into environmental science because I decided that preserving our resources and making sure the things I'm enjoying now can be enjoyed by future kids and other generations as well. As I got into farming, though, I really learned that I didn't know there was so much I didn't know or appreciate about the land."

Sharing that passion for others by building on what the first watershed coordinator started in Sioux County seemed like a perfect fit. He plans to continue collaborating with county partners, including Dordt College, Farmers Coop Society and Natural Resources Conservation Service as well as possibly adding a few more local organizations to the mix to enhance the project.

"What's important to remember is that our watershed is a demonstration project," Meyer said. "The point of the project is to demonstrate that when farmers voluntarily work together in conservation, they can make a positive impact both locally and nationally. We want to show that Iowa doesn't need to be regulated because we're conservation-minded and already doing what needs to be done on a regular basis."

AT A GLANCE
Name: Colton Meyer
Position: Watershed Coordinator
Start date: Nov. 14
Education: Earned a degree in environmental science from Iowa State University, 2010
Phone: 712-737-2253, ext. 301
mail: colton.meyer@ia.nacdnet.net