Until recently, only Iowa waterways categorized as rivers were identified with green roadside signs, which are installed and maintained by the Iowa Department of Transportation. However, rivers are fed by streams and creeks, and that water may end up in lakes which provide drinking water.
In the fall of 2014, a pilot signage program was initiated through a partnership between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa DOT to begin identifying a select group of streams located along DOT-controlled highways. The project was paid for using Iowa Section 319 funds.
Steve Hopkins, IDNR Nonpoint Source Coordinator, says Rathbun Lake was selected for the sign project as it is one of nine watersheds that has creeks that flow under a state or federal bridge. Rathbun Lake Watershed covers 354,000 acres in six southern Iowa counties and drains into Rathbun Lake, the drinking water source for 80,000 people in 51 communities.
“This state wide public information and education program was developed by the IDNR to create and enhance awareness of where streams are located within a watershed that provides drinking water,” says Hopkins. The creeks identified with new signage will only be those that flow under the bridge of a state and federal highway, not county road bridges.
“We believe awareness of streams and the names of specific streams is an important factor in watershed residents’ understanding of how watersheds affect stream water quality, and of how behaviors by residents within a watershed affect the water quality of the stream within the watershed,” explains Hopkins.
The creeks identified in the Rathbun Lake Watershed are Chariton Creek, Hamilton Creek, Dick Creek, South Chariton River, Wolf Creek, Wildcat Creek, and Jackson Creek.
Other watersheds in the signage project include Badger Creek in Madison County, Big Creek Lake in Boone and Polk Counties, Dry Run Creek in Black Hawk County, Duck Creek in Scott County, Easter Lake in Polk County, Lake Geode in Henry and Des Moines Counties, Silver Creek in Howard and Winneshiek Counties, and Tete Des Morts Creek in Jackson County.
Signs encourage travelers to Protect Rathbun Lake
Travelers are directed to the project website to learn what they can do to help protect Rathbun Lake.