Conservation group calls Cedar River "endangered" - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Conservation group calls Cedar River "endangered"

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - The national conservation group American Rivers has named the Cedar River the fifth most endangered river in the United States. They say outdated flood and watershed management has made the river a public safety threat. Shana Udvardy says poor watershed planning is causing increased pollution and a higher risk of flooding for this body of water.

"The river has been impacted by years of intensive agriculture, urbanization, and altered hydrology, which have left a changed landscape that no longer absorbs water, but instead sends water rapidly downstream, causing river levels to rise," said Udvardy in a news conference on Wednesday.

The cedar river has now become the focus of a multi-agency conservation effort. Cedar Rapids mayor Ron Corbett says that's the silver lining of this new report: "A more comprehensive plan to flood control."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will play a role in creating that plan. They want to focus on non-structural solutions to flood management, which means working with nature, rather than against it.

"If you have homes and businesses that can be moved and relocated, that's what you do, so when that area floods again, there won't be any damage," said Ron Fournier, an Army Corps representative.

Conservation experts like Sean McMahon of The Nature Conservancy said creating larger buffer zones between man-made structures and the river will also mean a healthier environment for the creatures that call it home.

"Seventy percent of the state's amphibians and reptiles are found in the narrow lower Cedar River valley," said McMahon.

Officials say the sooner a new watershed plan is in place, the better chance Iowa will have of securing funding for projects associated with it.

"A strong, comprehensive watershed plan could result in securing tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars from Congress, for a major environmental restoration project for the Cedar River," McMahon explained.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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