Meet Kate Giannini, Communications Specialist for the IWA

Kate Giannini, pictured with husband (Ryan Giannini), and two sons.

Kate Giannini, pictured with husband (Ryan Giannini), and two sons.

Kate Giannini, a Johnson County native, has been immersed in the conservation and natural resources field on agricultural and urban landscapes for eleven years.

A majority of that time was spent in a partnership position between the Johnson County Planning Department and the Johnson County Soil & Water Conservation District.

During that time, Kate gained valuable experience with NRCS conservation planning, best management practice (BMP) implementation, project management, watershed assessment, monitoring, and planning.

She has experience collaborating with many different types of partners, public agencies, NGO’s, private individuals and companies on best ways to implement conservation economically, improve soil health and water quality, and reduce flooding.

Kate is excited to meet and learn from the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) partners and project coordinators and integrate her technical skills and community outreach knowledge to the IWA.

In her free time she enjoys being outside, traveling, hunting, kayaking, and spending time with her two young boys (Easton & Nolan) and husband, Ryan.

Kate and her family reside in Washington County, where she also serves as an elected Soil Commissioner.

 

Get to Know Marius Agua

By Mikael Mulugeta

After two years as project manager for an NGO project in the Philippines, Marius Agua will serve as the project coordinator for the North Raccoon River Watershed Management Coalition (NRRWMC).

In this new role, Agua will work with the NRRWMC to facilitate watershed planning activities, manage the implementation of flood resiliency conservation projects, and share information with the public across the watershed to ensure the program’s effectiveness. He will help identify suitable locations to implement conservation practices designed to retain water and reduce flooding, as well as assist landowners as they work to reduce soil and nutrient loss.

Originally from Calapan City, Philippines, Agua received a BS in agricultural engineering from the University of the Philippines, an MS in soil science and water management from Wageningen Agricultural University, and a PhD in agricultural engineering from the University of the Philippines.

We caught up with Agua to discuss his new position.

Q: Where did you work before you took this position?

A: From 2016-2017, I was the project manager of an NGO project called “Strengthening Grassroots Advocacy to Protect Critical Watershed from the Mindoro Nickel Project” in Mindoro, Philippines. The Goldman Environmental Award funded the project.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your role with NRRWMC?

A: As project coordinator, I hope to orchestrate and contribute to the formulation of the North Raccoon River Watershed management plan by working with the different partners in the NRRWMC and the stakeholders in the watershed area.

Secondly, I hope to be instrumental in fulfilling the goals of the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA).

Q: How did you hear about the opening and what was appealing about the position?

A: I found the position announcement online and I wanted to be productive and contribute something meaningful. Furthermore, my academic background and training, my experience in research and project engagement/consultancy, and my advocacy for environmental protection fit the position and the values of the IWA.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell the NRRWMC and IWA partners?

A: First, I would like to thank the NRRWMC for giving me the opportunity to serve and contribute to the IWA program. I am excited to work with the coalition, with the different IWA partners, and with farmers and landowners. I am determined to work and win together!

Q: What are some hobbies of yours?

A: Lap swimming and table tennis.

Q: What do you enjoy reading?

A: I like to read the news and articles about health, water, politics, the environment, and the projects in my home province in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. I also read books that reference topics related to my job and about water science and environmental issues.

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I am lucky to have taste buds that are easy to please. However, my favorites include native Filipino dishes. I am a fan of vegetables and Asian food in general.

Get to Know Matthew Frana

By Mikael Mulugeta

 

Following six years of experience with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa native Matthew Frana will serve as the project coordinator for the Upper Iowa River Watershed (UIRW).

In this new role, Frana will work with the UIRW to facilitate watershed planning activities, manage the implementation of flood resiliency conservation projects, and share information with the public across the watershed to ensure the program’s effectiveness. He will help identify suitable locations to install conservation practices designed to retain water and reduce flooding, as well as assist landowners as they work to reduce soil and nutrient loss while enhancing wildlife habitat.

Originally from Conover, Iowa, Frana received a BA in general studies and a master’s in ecosystem management from the University of Northern Iowa.

We caught up with Frana to discuss his new position.

 

Q: Where did you work before you took this position?

A: I spent three years as a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Osage, Iowa. Before that I spent about three years as a wetland specialist for the NRCS, split between Muscatine and Boone, Iowa. I also worked with the Americorps/DNR as a habitat specialist out of West Union, Iowa, and as a biological technician for the National Park Service at Effigy Mounds in Harpers Ferry, Iowa.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your role with UIRW?

A: Mainly to help address the goals of the Iowa Watershed Approach, which are to reduce flood risk, improve water quality, increase flood resilience, engage stakeholders, and improve the quality of life and health of people within the watershed, while developing a program that can be replicated throughout the Midwest and nation. By doing so, I hope to contribute to a community of people who takes great pride in this part of the state by assisting with the process of improving resilience and sustainability.

Q: How did you hear about the opening and what was appealing about the position?

A: A friend of mine told me about it. I actually grew up in the watershed, and spend a lot of time kayaking, fishing, hiking, and camping in it. I’m looking forward to giving back to an area that I’ve gotten so much enjoyment from by promoting efforts to protect and enhance it.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to tell the Upper Iowa River WMA and IWA partners?

A: I’m looking forward to meeting everyone involved and seeing how we can all come together to accomplish the goals laid out by the IWA.

Q: What’s a hobby of yours?

A: Magnets.

Q: What is the last book you read?

A: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

A: Lethal Weapon 6

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Rum ham.

Q: Where would you like to go that you’ve never been?

A: Machu Picchu, Peru.

Q: What’s your hidden talent?

A: I’ve always enjoyed dabbling in art through various media, but really enjoy messing around with photography.

Request for Proposals: Middle Cedar River Watershed Management Plan

Questions that arise after the Pre-Bid meeting should be submitted in writing to Adam Rodenberg, arodenberg@co.benton.ia.us by 3:00 pm on June 1, 2017. All questions and answers will be distributed to contractors in attendance at the Pre-Bid meeting. All contractors will be notified in writing regarding results of the selection process.

Electronic copies should be submitted as a PDF with the subject line, “Middle Cedar River Watershed Proposal”. Submissions should be sent to the following email address: Adam Rodenberg, arodenberg@co.benton.ia.us. Proposals are due June 16, 2017.

 

For more information: MCWMA Request for Proposals

Job Opening: Upper Wapsipinicon River WMA Project Coordinator

Buchanan Soil and Water Conservation District, in cooperation with the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed Management Authority (WMA), seeks a self-motivated, experienced Watershed Project Coordinator to implement the Iowa Watershed Approach project for the Upper Wapsipinicon River Watershed. The project will address areas of environmental concern that may include but are not limited to flood reduction, nutrient loading, sedimentation, and other hydrologic, soil conservation and water quality issues for the Upper Wapsipinicon River WMA. The ideal candidate will have experience in watershed planning and/or project management, an ability to interpret scientific concepts clearly and proficiently, and a demonstrated capacity to work with diverse stakeholder groups, including local public officials, NGOs, landowners, farmers, businesses, and the general public.

 

Application Closing Date: 05/12/2017

 

For more information, please visit: http://upperwapsi.org/coordinator/

 

 

Field Day – J.H. Roadman Memorial Park, Dike

Thursday September 21, 4:30-6:30 – J.H. Roadman Memorial Park, Dike.

A complimentary dinner will be provided at the conclusion of the event. J.H. Roadman Memorial Park is located 1.5 miles west of Dike on County Road D-19 (160th St.). The park is located on the north side of the road. This field day is in partnership with the ISU STRIPS team and will highlight the planting of in-field prairie strips and a saturated buffer. This event will take place in the Middle Cedar Watershed.

Get to Know John Rathbun

By Mikael Mulugeta

 

John Rathbun will serve as the Clear Creek watershed coordinator, which covers Johnson and Iowa County, for the Iowa Watershed Approach.

As watershed coordinator, Rathbun will work with the Clear Creek Watershed Coalition to facilitate watershed planning activities, manage the implementation of flood resiliency conservation projects, and communicate and disseminate information to the public across the watershed to ensure the program’s effectiveness.

Rathbun studied humanities at the University of Iowa and landscape architectural design at Lansing Community College. He lives in Cedar Rapids with his wife and two basset hounds.

We caught up with Rathbun to discuss his new position.

 

Q: Where did you work before you took this position?

A: Most recently, I worked for the Washington Soil & Water Conservation District as the watershed coordinator for the West Fork Crooked Creek. Prior to that, I worked for the Johnson County SWCD as a district technician and administrative assistant. For the previous thirteen years, I worked for Forever Green Inc. as a landscape designer.

 

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in this position?

A: First, I hope to help raise awareness about how people can increase flood resiliency in their own back forty or their own back yard. Second, would be to help people implement practices that work for the special circumstances of their land and help them in their operations as well as their downstream neighbors. Third, is to facilitate discussion and understanding between urban and rural folks in the watershed about their connectedness and interdependence, plus the possible opportunities to cooperate. My overall goal is to improve the Clear Creek Watershed for our farmers, landowners, residents and the folks downstream.

 

Q: How did you hear about the opening and what was appealing about the position?

A: Peer outreach is how I learned about the position. Being able to advocate for and improve our watershed’s resilience to flooding is very appealing to me along with getting out and talking with people about what they can do to help the cause. I really enjoy these types of activities and when we get people involved and actually see projects and practices implemented on the land, my heart sings.

 

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell the Clear Creek WMA and IWA partners?

A: I am honored to have a role in this project. As the Iowa and Cedar Rivers rose back in 2008, I wondered to myself and others about what could be done upstream to slow rain water and alleviate some of the damage caused by heavy rains and flooding. Some of the people I shared ideas with agreed that there must be something that could be done.  Now we have a chance to affect some real change and that is a great feeling to be a part that change.

 

Q: What is a hobby of yours?

A: Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies, my wife does the vegetables and I do the landscape.  There is a real satisfaction from cleaning beds, pruning, placing, and planting plants with my wife. As time goes on, we get to see what is working and what plants need their position adjusted or moved to a new home altogether. We incorporate native or at least native originated plants, in our landscape so they are adapted to our soils and climate. They provide habitat for wildlife plus tasty berries for the humans, if we can harvest them before the birds! We plan to create a small prairie planting along our side yard fence once some road construction is complete. This planting will help soak more water into the soil and provide food and habitat for bees and butterflies.

 

Q: What is the last book you read?

A: “Practicing God’s Presence” by Brother Lawrence.

 

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Whatever my wife and I prepare together, I have a wide range of food that I really enjoy. I am really looking forward to some fresh tomatoes and sweet corn this summer!

 

Q: Where would you like to go that you’ve never been?

A: This is very difficult for me, I feel like there are so many places that would be great to visit and each place has its special attributes. If I had to pick one place and I had unlimited time and funds, I think it would be Japan, because I believe it is very different from the places I have visited in the past.

 

Watersheds of Iowa

Synopsis: It has been a busy season for watersheds with the Iowa Watershed Approach rolling full steam across the state, watersheds hiring coordinators, and various entities gearing up to provide technical assistance both in and out of our streams and rivers. The Des Moines Area MPO hosted a legislative priorities session to gather small groups to promote a watershed-based approach to improve water quality, including the formation of a state-level association of WMAs for a communication network with legislators. DNR hosted an event to provide WMAs an opportunity to come together and report on their progress and workshop some of their challenges and opportunities. We also connected with watershed coordinator John Swanson and Lee Bjerke, a Winneshiek County engineer that has been working closely with the Turkey River WMA, to learn about their dedication to watershed-related activities.

Check out the full Watershed Newsletter by HBK Engineering here: Spring 2017 Watershed Newsletter Issue 2

Get to Know Jody Bailey & Ben Curtis

By Mikael Mulugeta

On March 1, 2017, Jody Bailey began serving the English River WMA as the project coordinator for the Iowa Watershed Approach.

Along with her colleague Ben Curtis, a project manager for the English River WMA, Bailey is responsible for facilitating stakeholder engagement in watershed improvement efforts, developing educational programming, coordinating implementation of the best management practices for water quality improvement and flood reduction goals, and has administrative responsibilities at the English River Watershed Management Authority (ERWMA).

Originally from Iowa City, Bailey received her B.A. in sociology and her M.S. in urban and regional planning from the University of Iowa.

We caught up with Bailey to discuss her new position.

Q: How long have you been working at the English River WMA?

A: I have been working at the English River WMA since 2013 and led the initial watershed assessments and planning efforts.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your new position?

A: On the local level, my biggest priority is to engage more landowners in watershed protection efforts through education and financial incentives provided by the HUD project. On a broader level, we are hopeful that the HUD project successfully develops a roadmap for implementing statewide resiliency projects across other states who may need it.

Q: How did you hear about the opening and what was appealing about the position?

A: The Project Coordinator position was especially appealing to me as I have been with the English River WMA since its inception in 2013 and it’s exciting to be on board for the next phase, the implementation phase, where ideas become “shovel ready” projects.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to tell the English River WMA and IWA partners?

A: Ben and I are both looking forward to where the IWA project takes us, and continuing to be part of the amazing team of water resource professionals involved in this project.

Q: What’s a hobby of yours?

A: Riding horses through Iowa’s river valleys.

Q: What is the last book you read?

A: David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day”

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

A: “Apocalypse Now”

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A: Crusty French bread and amazing cheese.

Q: Where would you like to go that you’ve never been?

A: It’s on my bucket list to take a train ride through the Rocky Mountains with my family.

Q: What’s your hidden talent?

A: My dad raised me right; I drive a manual transmission and can change my own oil.

***
Ben Curtis, a project manager for the English River Watershed and the City of Kalona, will assist Bailey with the operations of the English WMA.

Originally from Lake Zurich, Illinois, Curtis received his bachelor’s degree in environmental policy from Drake University and his master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Iowa, specializing in land use and environmental planning.

Curtis had this to say about his role as project manager.

Q: What are the responsibilities of your position?

A: As a project manager for the English River Watershed and the City of Kalona, I was brought on board to assist the project coordinator with developing sub-watershed plans and implementing conservation practices in our watershed through the IWA project. I also work on planning projects for the City of Kalona.  I started as an intern in the summer of 2015 and have been involved with the watershed and city since.

Q: Where did you work before you took this position?

A: After graduating from Drake, I worked for both the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. I worked for the Planning, Design, and Construction department at the University of Iowa during my graduate career.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in this as project manager?

A: In addition to helping the project coordinator implement many conservation practices across our watershed, I hope to promote the English River Watershed, and all other watersheds in Iowa, as tools for achieving good planning. Watershed groups foster partnerships that allow for sharing data and local-knowledge that is necessary to prepare solid plans.

Q: How did you hear about the opening and what was appealing about the position?

A: The idea of watersheds is appealing from a planning standpoint. The notion of geographically similar communities, faced with similar challenges related to water, working together across political boundaries is a powerful concept.

Q: What’s a hobby of yours?

A: I enjoy biking and kayaking.

Q: Where would you like to go that you’ve never been?

A: I would love to travel to Italy. And/or explore Europe by train.

 

Contact Jody at jbailey@englishriverwma.org and Ben at bcurtis@englishriverwma.org, or by phone (319) 656-2310