The acquisition of land in Minnesota could help boost the water quality in northwest Iowa’s Spirit Lake.

The Spirit Lake Protective Association’s, John Smeltzer, says he’s been worried for a decade about the amount of sediment being pumped from the cropland north of the lake — and that’s why they’ve partnered with a Minnesota conservation organization to buy the 195 acres to restore it to wetland and prairie.

“Cause Iowans drink this water. Iowans come to this area to birdwatch to enjoy the wildlife. And also to know that the wildlife is being cared for,” Smeltzer says. The watershed protection project is expected to decrease phosphorus and nitrogen deposits by 85%. Smeltzer says it also will restore habitat for diverse types of waterfowl, like trumpeter swans and Sandhill cranes.

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation communications director Joe Jayjack says the hope is to significantly reduce the amount of runoff that makes its way from the often flooded parcel of land. “It’s a place for this water to go into to slow down, have the plants that are naturally occurring in these wetland areas pull out a lot of those nutrients and clean the water before it can go into these bigger lake systems,” he says.

Jayjack estimates it will take two to three years until the natural habitat is restored. The land will then become a Waterfowl Production Area and be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

(By Kendall Crawford, Iowa Public Radio)

Radio Iowa