Wills honored with Circle of Excellence Award from the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance

Wed 4-7-2021 Ankeny, IA

(Ankeny)-John Wills, Dickinson County Clean Water Alliance Coordinator, has been honored with the Circle of Excellence award from the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) as part of the fourth annual IAWA Iowa Watershed Awards program.

Wills was honored with five other watershed coordinators who also received a 2021 IAWA Iowa Watershed Award. The recipients were announced at the 2021 Iowa Water Conference.

 “In these challenging times, it’s important to recognize these unsung heroes who continue to make great progress implementing conservation practices that improve water quality,” says Sean McMahon, IAWA Executive Director. “These watershed coordinators have worked during a global pandemic to help meet local community goals while also simultaneously advancing the objectives of the statewide Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

This is the second year in a row that Wills has earned this award.  The goal of his project is to get one of the smaller of Iowa’s Great Lakes, Lower Gar, off the state’s impaired waters list.

All of the area lakes drain into shallow Lower Gar before it empties into Milford Creek and the Little Sioux River. With a depth of little more than six feet, Lower Gar has a problem with summer algae blooms.

“Everything we do above Lower Gar will impact and improve that lake,” Wills says. 

He notes that the chain of Great Lakes does a good job of naturally removing nitrate, but Lower Gar is impaired by too much phosphorus, which increases algae growth. Phosphorus naturally binds to soil particles that wash into the lakes.

Even during the pandemic, Wills’ project made great progress in 2020.

“It didn’t stop us in our tracks as I thought it would,” Wills says.

Construction of a $1.3 million storm water wetland near East Okoboji is  scheduled for completion in July. The eight-acre wetland swells to 10 acres during storms. Each year it will stop more than 300 tons of sediment and 179 pounds of phosphorus from reaching the lake.

 “It may be the largest storm water wetland in the state,” Wills says. 

 Progress was also made on shoreline restoration at Angler’s Bay on Big Spirit Lake, with work conducted in early February on frozen ground in order to protect buried native American artifacts.

 The IAWA Iowa Watershed Awards program was developed by IAWA in partnership with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Conservation Districts of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa DNR.