Lynette Seigley helps organize Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition.
This year, it will focus on 91 miles of the Big Sioux River from Sioux Falls to just north of Sioux City. Seigley says it’s always unclear what the volunteers will find, but they’ll definitely be busy.
“Staff have been out doing some pre-scouting and we know there’s trash out there,” Seigley says. “Pretty much anything and everything, in terms of household appliances, tires, old scrap metal and old dump sites along the river.”
Project AWARE has tackled these projects for 12 straight years. This year’s expedition runs from July 12th to the 19th on the Big Sioux between Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Westfield, Iowa.
“We’ll probably have about 350 to 400 volunteers throughout the week,” Seigley says. “Part of the flexibility with Project AWARE is you can come for one day, a couple of days or the entire week.”
Volunteers are offered free tent camping and learn about watersheds, water quality and other natural resource topics during nightly programs. Seigley says around 85-percent of the volunteers this year have never spent any time on this particular section of the Big Sioux River.
“So, it brings people to the area. It gives them an opportunity to experience the Big Sioux River, learn about the communities along the way, and the archaeology and geology,” Seigley says.
Last year, Project AWARE volunteers pulled more than 68,000 pounds of trash from the Des Moines River in north-central Iowa. Seigley says 88% of that trash was recycled.