The Upper Iowa River Watershed Resiliency Plan was developed by Northeast Iowa RC&D on behalf of the Upper Iowa River Watershed Management Authority (WMA) Board over a two year period from February 2017 to March 2019 with input from dozens of contributing partners who conducted research, analyzed opportunities, facilitated public input and recommended strategies and actions. The UIR WMA Board assisted with many aspects of the plan’s development, including community outreach, engagement, and education, as well as content development and review. They ultimately approved the plan and continue to actively work toward its implementation. Although the plan was brought together by Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development Inc., a List of Contributing Partners provides insight into the planning process and the extent of the research and partnership that occurred during plan development.

Members of the WMA Board

  • Allamakee County: Dan Byrnes, Allamakee County Supervisor
  • Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District: Jack Knight (WMA Vice Chair), Allamakee SWCD Commissioner
  • City of Decorah: Andy Carlson, Decorah Council Member
  • City of Lime Springs
  • Howard County: Joe Pisney, Howard County Supervisor
  • Howard County Soil and Water Conservation District: Harlan Hickle, Howard County SWCD Commissioner
  • Winneshiek County: John Beard (Chair), Winneshiek County Commissioner
  • Winneshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District: Mark Jensen (WMA Secretary), Winneshiek County SWCD Commissioner


The Upper Iowa River Watershed is a highly functioning hydrologic system where local, state and federal private and public partners work together across political boundaries to increase human and landscape resiliency.”

The UIR WMA Board believes that the UIR WMA Resiliency Plan will help them realize their vision and achieve the following goals:


  • Improve and protect ground and surface water quality;
  • Reduce the risk to and impact of flooding to social, economic and ecological systems;
  • Build human and landscape resiliency.

The development of the plan was made possible by the vision and dedication of the partners associated with the Iowa Watershed Approach and a Disaster Resiliency Grant provided through the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Executive Summary

The UIR WMA Plan includes thorough analysis of the characteristics of the UIR Watershed. The analyses were conducted by several different partners and then brought together and carefully considered independently and in relation to each other to better help the UIR WMA Board and partners set goals, develop strategic objectives, and make recommendations for implementation of geographically sound strategies. The analyses considered the hydrology, soils, karst features, landuse, topography, stream and river designations, climate and rainfall patterns, road and bridge infrastructure, community storm water management, and other watershed characteristics. It used new data sets and ArcGIS tools to identify the existing structural conservation practices as well as the places where structural practices could be implemented in the future.

Although the UIR Watershed was considered as a large basin, detailed consideration for each subwatershed was not only essential to the analysis and planning, it set the stage for partners to make implementation more manageable and provides a starting point for watershed residents that want to better understand their place in the UIR Watershed. Hydrologic modeling conducted by the Iowa Flood Center helped the partners understand the extent of the effort that will be needed to effect real change. The social, cultural and community assessments and considerations will ultimately increase watershed resiliency in a way that will have a lasting and positive impact on current and future generations of watershed residents, including the most vulnerable populations.

The UIR WMA Plan can not be implemented by one entity. It is a blueprint for public and private investment and partnerships. Therefore, it recognizes the many agencies and plans that oversee and dictate both urban and rural funding streams. It includes urban and rural strategies and recognizes that the first defense in any plan is sometimes the simplest and most affordable but must also be implemented by the greatest number of watershed residents. Holding as much rainfall where it falls and nutrients where they are needed through improved soil health, diversified land cover, and other private lands conservation practices is essential. However, as rainfall events increase in intensity, implementation of strategies that increase storm water runoff storage and protect stream and river corridors will become more and more important for true watershed resiliency.

Support and encouragement for development of the Upper Iowa River Watershed Resiliency Network, a multi-agency organization that fosters information sharing and maximizes implementation of this plan, is a key objective of the plan and must occur for true progress to be made. Implementation of education and outreach by public and private partners throughout the watershed and continued research and analysis as new tools become available are also essential to success.