Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good news about Rathbun Lake

Here in the South of Iowa, we get our drinking water from Rathbun Lake, located near Centerville. Coincidentally, the "headwaters" of various creeks that flow into Rathbun start near my house. Behind the house, it's Nine Mile Creek. At the back of the farm, its Wolf Creek. On the other side of the road, its Chariton Creek. All join into the Chariton River (or South Fork of Chariton River) and go to Rathbun Lake. So, what we do here affects our drinking water.

Here's a snippet about some of the good work being done to protect our water supply.

Normally, the funding level is 50 percent, but Alliance officials boosted it to 75 percent.That level, says Jim Sullivan of Weldon, whose farm is in the Brush Creek sub-watershed 40 miles from Lake Rathbun, makes a huge difference enabling more farmers to participate.With farm payments and operating expenses, plus kids in college, he and his wife, Betty, say they couldn’t handle 50 percent cost-share.“We bought this farm in 1996 and always wanted to terrace it,” he says.“In the 1970s, conventional tillage of the land in this area used to make you sick. You could see the erosion,” states Sullivan. Working with Pickens, the Sull­­ivans installed 19,450 feet of broad-based terraces. They were also the first farmers in the state to utilize a new 10-year low-interest Local Water Protection loan program ($5,000 minimum to $50,000 maximum) offered through the Iowa Division of Soil Conservation. His efforts will reduce the sediment loading by 183 tons per year and phosphorous by 725 pounds.A secondary benefit also developed from the Alliance’s goal of trapping sediment. A sediment retention structure built in 2005 will provide a water source for their 120-head cow-calf herd.The Sullivans’ goal is to do some conservation work every year to protect their farm. Even his mother, and her neighbors, all in their 80s, want to install some conservation measures on their land. “That’s really neat,” says Sullivan.

I know Jim and Betty, and they do a great job of conservation.

The point is, this bit of government coerciveness is OK, in that the results benefit all of society equally. The farmer has to pay for some of the work, but in most cases, the government shares the cost up to 75%. Sometimes it makes it easier for the land to be farmed, as there are no longer any gullies and ditches to drive through; the conservation practices eliminate these.

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