A team of watershed experts has been gathering information to develop a management plan for the Keigley Branch of the South Skunk Watershed.

A meeting will be held Thursday, July 13, to discuss the Keigley Branch Watershed, a portion of the Skunk River Watershed that affects people in the area, including those in Story City and Roland.

The meeting to develop a watershed management plan for the Keigley Branch will be from 5:30-7 p.m., immediately following the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Board meeting. The public is invited and refreshments will be provided.

The meeting will be held in the board room at the Core Facility of the ISU research park, 1805 Collaboration Place, Ames. Take the University Avenue exit from Highway 30 and go south past Airport Road. Collaboration Place is left off the third roundabout.

Last fall, Prairie Rivers of Iowa received a $71,000 conservation innovation grant to develop a watershed plan for the Keigley Watershed, which includes Story City, Roland, Randall, Gilbert and some parts of Ames.

The grant funds a two-year process that will develop a watershed plan. Staff from PRI will meet with stakeholders, farmers and members of the communities during the next two years.

The grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service will be used by Prairie Rivers of Iowa to develop a plan that will then be implemented over next 20 years.

The preliminary findings of the watershed assessment show that nitrogen and phosphorus levels are high in the Keigley Branch, Bear Creek, Long Dick Creek and the South Skunk River — higher on average than levels observed in the Squaw Creek Watershed.

Bacteria levels were lower than Squaw Creek but still frequently higher than the state standard, according to a PCI report.

The report had some positive notes, as well, and mentioned several examples of “great work that is already happening in the watershed.”

“Story City recently installed an innovative stormwater management project,” Dan Haug of PCI stated in the report. “The city of Ames is working on modifying an unsafe low-head dam with a rock-arch rapids to enhance recreational opportunities and fish passage.

“Landowners along Bear Creek and researchers at Iowa State University created a nationally known demonstration site for riparian buffers.”

At the July 13 meeting, the agenda will start with a recap of findings from watershed assessment work. Existing conservation efforts in the watershed will be highlighted, and there will be a discussion about the listening sessions that are planned for the fall.

Watershed experts will begin discussing goals and objectives for the management plan, and a meeting schedule will be set for the rest of the year.

Water from the Keigley Watershed flows into the South Skunk River, which has been federally recognized as an impaired waterway.

“We will be looking at elements for improving water quality,” said Penny Brown Huber, executive director of Prairie Rivers, after the grant was announced last year. “We will also look at things like the wildlife in the area. Could the watershed support a recreational trail? Or a water trail? We want to help the communities.”

“‘Watershed management’ can be a loaded term for some, given the history of finger-pointing around flooding and water quality in our state,” Haug said. “However, I’m confident that by highlighting the work being done and the opportunities available that we can shift the conversation to how we can all be part of the solution.”