Copyright © Winneshiek SWCD

Grade stabilization structure in December 2015

One of the project's funding sources was the Iowa Fish Habitat Stamp Fund.

Rock chute wetland in September 2017 and signage at the site

Fish habitat was installed in August 2015 while the lake was still lowered.

Cardinal flowers & Sunflowers can be found along the many trails on site.

Lake Meyer in May 2016

Lake Meyer Water Quality Initiative

Originally built in 1968 as a 37-acre lake with a sediment volume of 165 acre-feet, sedimentation from the past 40 years has decreased the size to less than 32 acres and volume to 78 acre-feet. The watershed area is 1,523 acres with land uses of corn/soybean (70%), urban/artificial (12%), CRP/hay (9%), forest (5%) and water (3%). Lake Meyer is on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) 303(d) "Impaired Waters List" due to high concentrations of sediment and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus).


Best Management Practices (BMPs) include ~3 miles of filter strips, 4 grade stabilization or wetland

structures to target urban drainage and 1.7 miles of terraces (in addition to ~5 miles of existing

terraces). Funding sources include the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa

DNR, United States Department of Agriculture, State of Iowa, Winneshiek County Conservation Board

(CCB), City of Calmar, South Winneshiek Community School District and Pheasants Forever.


In summer 2015 the Winneshiek SWCD, along with partnerships with the Winneshiek

CCB and Iowa DNR-Fisheries, had the opportunity to place another piece of the

stewardship puzzle in the Lake Meyer Watershed. Two nutrient and sediment

delivery reduction structures were planned and constructed precisely within the

watershed to ensure the greatest chance to increase the water quality of the lake

basin and enhance recreational opportunities for generations to come. Funding for

this project was secured through the Iowa Watershed Improvement Review Board,

Iowa Fish Habitat Stamp Fund and Winneshiek County.

The construction phase of the project began with the drawing down of the lake

to implement construction. The lake's water began to be lowered at the end of

May and a dropdown of 10 feet below normal pool was held throughout the

summer to ensure site construction feasibility, safety and to recycle/consolidate

nutrients in vegetation that grew on exposed mudflats. Bids were requested

from interested contractors, a contractor was accepted and construction began

in September. The rock chute wetland and grade stabilization structure were

completed by late October due to perfect weather conditions. With direction

from the Winneshiek CCB, the contractor went through extraordinary efforts to

ensure the quality of micro habitats within the construction areas were protected

throughout the project's life.

Also during this timeframe, the exposed mudflats had revealed in some places over five feet of sediment had been trapped within the lake bed from erosion in the upper reaches of the watershed. The opportunity became available to remove some of this siltation and further revive the overall capacity of the lake. The removal of sediments will play three important roles. First, it will decrease the available phosphorus and other nutrients that can be agitated during flooding events or excessive wave action that had caused algae blooms, harming the recreational and health value of the lake. Second, more of the lake was freed of a silt blanket which increased the various habitats for numerous species of animals that use the area. The Iowa DNR also conducted extensive fish habitat projects within the lake at the time of drawdown to enhance the fish habitat and spawning areas. Lastly, the sediment was used to reclaim a county-owned rock quarry that is a public nuisance and water quality hazard. More than 10,000 tons of sediment were removed from the lake bed that had been washed in over 40 years.

The construction of these two structures will effectively trap over 3,000 tons of sediment and 3,900 pounds of phosphorus every year. This is about the equivalent of 200 dump truck loads of silt and the weight of a sedan in phosphorus that will no longer impact the health and longevity of this wonderful recreational gem of Winneshiek County. For more information contact Michelle Elliott, Project Coordinator, at 563-382-4352 x3 or