Boots on the Ground: Shane Wulf - Miller Creek Water Quality Improvement Project

Photos and Information Provided by: Shane Wulf - Project Coordinator - Miller Creek Water Quality Improvement Project

1. What is your role as Project Coordinator and how did you get into this position?
My role as Project Coordinator is to work with stakeholders in and around the Miller Creek watershed to increase overall awareness of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. To build awareness, we are working with producers to implement conservation practices included in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy that can be used as projects for field days and workshops! I received my Bachelor of Science with a major in Geography and a minor in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in December of 2013. I received the job description from our department’s listserv and moved to Cedar Falls to begin my role as coordinator in March of 2014. 

 2. Where is your project located / how many acres does it influence?  
The Miller Creek Water Quality Improvement Project focuses on two HUC 12 watersheds in southcentral Black Hawk and northeast Tama counties. The watershed encompasses 42,431 acres which eventually drain into the Cedar River.   

3. What partners are involved with your project?  
The Miller Creek Water Quality Improvement Project has a number of partners that have contributed to the success of the project. Please see those partners listed below. 

  • Tama County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • City of Cedar Rapids
  • East Central Iowa Co-op (ECI)
  • New Century FS
  • Iowa State University (ISU)
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
  • Iowa Soybean Association (ISA)
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI)
  • Iowa Learning Farms (ILF)
  • Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA)
  • Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN)
  • Ward Laboratories
  • DuPont-Pioneer
  • BMC Aggregates
  • Black Hawk County Conservation Board (BHCCB)
  • Tallgrass Prairie Center (TPC)
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • Black Hawk County Farm Bureau
  • Black Hawk County Wells Fargo
  • Cedar River Watershed Coalition
  • The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA)
  • Hudson Herald (Hudson, IA)
  • The Progress Review (La Porte City, IA) 

4. What makes your project special or unique? 
Our project is unique with its proximity to Waterloo and Cedar Falls. This allows for interactions with urban audiences and University of Northern Iowa students and staff. Two billboards featuring the Miller Creek WQI project were installed on Highway 63 and Highway 218 (which surround the project). The billboards were a great opportunity to reach travelers as they entered into the Waterloo city limits. We participated in a field trip with Waterloo West High School where we discussed the Miller Creek WQI project, the INRS and the IOWATER monitoring efforts.  Another unique component of our project is “Coffee Shop Hours”. These are unscheduled, monthly producer-led meetings at local cooperatives where conservation is discussed. It is a great opportunity to visit with producers and landowners in a more relaxed environment. 

5. What are some successes/accomplishments that your project has achieved?
2015 was a particularly successful year with fantastic participation from producers and landowners in the watershed. Cover crops were by far the most popular practice with nearly 3,000 acres applied utilizing Water Quality Initiative and Regional Conservation Partnership Project funding. Strip-till, nitrification inhibitors, a bioreactor, and a saturated buffer are some other practices implemented in 2015.  Other highlights involve our participation in the Cedar River Watershed Coalition Bus Tour, a visit from USDA Secretary Vilsack, field days and workshops. The project has a great relationship with the Iowa Soybean Association which has helped establish an excellent edge-of-field performance evaluation program. The program allows producers to see the effectiveness of nitrate and phosphorus removal from conservation practices directly out of their own tile-outlets, bioreactors and saturated buffers.