Archived Story

CRWD, engineers unveil digital model of watersheds

Published 9:40am Friday, January 11, 2013

After two years of measuring ditches, bridges, waterways and punching numbers into a computer, the Cedar River Watershed District and Barr Engineering have developed a digital program of the entire watershed.

The CRWD and Barr Engineering officials unveiled how the program works along with its benefits Thursday at a community meeting. Representatives from the county, several other watershed districts, the Department of Natural Resources and a college engineering department learned how the model, which encompasses the Cedar River and Turtle Creek watersheds, can accurately track water flow.

The tool cost $130,000 on CRWD’s end; about $90,000 went toward developing the program, while the rest went toward fieldwork and mapping. State funding also helped pay for some of the project.

The model serves several purposes. One, it accurately shows how any given amount of rain will affect any area of the watershed. Two, it shows how structural projects near waterways will affect water flow. CRWD even plans to use the tool to search for the best areas for farmers to set aside land for the Conservation Reserve Program.

“It will definitely be used as a targeting tool,” said Justin Hanson, CRWD’s and Mower Soil and Water Conservation District’s resource specialist.

The tool will also be used for county projects that could potentially upset waterways, finding the best course of action for each project. It could be used to assess private projects that could potentially go against the CRWD’s rules, too.

Each time something changes waterways within the watershed, engineers at Barr will be able to update the model. It will constantly evolve. Those looking at the program can pull up pictures and information about 648 surveyed structures within both watersheds, structures such as culverts, bridges, dams and more.

Steve Klein, vice president of Barr, said no other watershed in the state has such a developed model.

“To have this model … is quite an opportunity for any governmental entity,” he added.

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