This year participants in the Iowa DNR’s 2012 Project A.W.A.R.E. had over 60 tons of fun, nearly twice the amount of fun (32 tons) they hauled out of the Turkey, Little Turkey and Volga Rivers last year! Yes, from July 7-14th, volunteers and landowners removed over 60 tons of trash from 93.6 miles of the Iowa River. No one measured the pounds of water in sweat they donated to the river on those 90* days, but the weight of recovered trash is nearly the equivalent of 38.2 new AWD Honda CR-V LX SUV’s.
There were 1,371 tires and a few tons of scrap metal hauled out of the river, and there were 387 participants with an average of 146 volunteers on the river each day. Volunteers, aged 3-78, represented 8 states including as far west as Oregon.
Happily, 86% of the trash was recycled.
Brian Soenen, Project AWARE Coordinator, once again kindly responded to my questions about this year’s Project A.W.A.R.E. event. An excerpt from his response, quoted below, leads one to believe that this year’s project may be talked about for years to come.
There were a couple good stories this year:
• An old (1800s?) plow, complete with some wood still in place, was pulled from the river and donated to the Steamboat Rock Historical Society.
• A man upstream of Iowa Falls was planning to go out in the winter to recover the front end of a 1951 Dodge Diplomat (he didn't know how else to get it), so when he saw it floating downriver on a canoe, he asked if he could have it. I told him he owes me two pictures...one with the front end from the river and another of the restored vehicle. When he called me, the first thing he said was, "You have some of the craziest most dedicated volunteers I have ever seen!"
• When digging out a large metal culvert, volunteers encountered a 30+ lbs. catfish, which freaked out some volunteer bystanders when it swam past them. The culvert was removed, catfish freed, and the frightened volunteers are recovering nicely.
• It's not trash, but something that surprised volunteers on AWARE were the number of mussels along the route. In at least one area, they noted a mussel bed with mussels "too numerous to count". Jennifer Kurth, who studies mussels for IDNR, also found species that have never been recorded in the Iowa River (i.e., creek heelsplitter).
For more information about Project AWARE (A Watershed Awareness River Expedition), & methods of participating in the clean-up of Iowa waterways, please visit this link: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/CanoeingKayaking/ProjectAWARE.aspx