For nearly six decades, Washington County-based contracting busi­­ness James Waterhouse Construction has devoted its efforts to “doing anything that saves our top soil,” says owner Jamey Waterhouse.

The company was recently recognized for its efforts with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Secretary’s Ag Leader Award for Conservation. 

James Waterhouse, Jamey’s father, founded the company in 1963. He owned and operated the business with his wife, Berna, for more than 58 years before passing away in November 2021, leaving a family legacy of dedication to conservation.

Today, in addition to Jamey, grandson Justin Hultman works for the company, and one of Jamey’s sons is also showing interest in the business. 

The company has installed terraces, waterways, wetlands, water management systems and the first bioreactor in Washington County. 

It has partnered with various organizations and agencies, including the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Conservation Districts of Iowa, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and IDALS. 

Waterhouse Construction has contributed to the success of the West Fork Crooked Creek Water Quality Initiative Project and worked with 71 landowners in the Lake Darling Watershed project for more than 30 years. 

Through this work, Waterhouse Const­ruction has built and renovated 162 structural projects draining 12,500 acres to improve the water quality and longevity of the state park and its resources.

Jamey Waterhouse attributes their motivation for doing all of this conservation work to the family’s love for nature and being outdoorsmen.

“We like structures that take water through the ground instead of running over the top of it and carrying the soil away,” he says.

The Washington County Natural Resources Conservation Ser­vice (NRCS) nominated Wat­er­house Construction for the Con­servation Leader Award. 

Tony Maxwell, the Washington County NRCS district conservationist, praised the company for being excellent contractors to work with. 

“They are a great go-between for us and the farmers or people needing contractor work done to make sure things are done in the right places and the right way.” Maxwell says. “Oftentimes, we have no contact with the contractors — we design the project, and they build them. The Waterhouses have been very good with us to get things right. They believe in what we say. They believe in conservation, and they use a lot of our practices that we promote on their own land with ponds, terraces and wetlands.”

In recent years, the Waterhouses have designed and created numerous wetlands, including on their own riverbottom and bottomland ground.

“Jim was one of the first people we worked with on wetland construction,” says Maxwell. “They were experts at creating drainage systems. They readily accept new ideas and new ways of doing things.” 

The Waterhouses are fervent about using conservation practices on their own land. They own 1,000 acres with 300 planted in row crops and the remainder in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), wetlands and woodlands. They have built terraces across their farms and 25 ponds.

Waterhouse Construction has four employees and an array of construction equipment, including four large bulldozers, skid loaders, dump trucks, a mini-excavator and a tiling machine. The headquarters are located in Hoot Owl Hollow near Keota.

Meyer is a freelance writer in Garrison.