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Public Hearing On State River Projects


An open meeting to gather public input on projects, goals and priorities for Iowa’s rivers and waterways will be held at the Johnson County Fairgrounds ISU Extension Building on Saturday, November 23rd, from 9:30 am—1:00 pm. Sign-in will start at 9:15.

The fairgrounds are located near the “Airport” exit from Highway 218 (4265 Oak Crest Hill Rd. SE).

The event is sponsored by Iowa River Friends on behalf of the Iowa Legislature’s Study Committee on Rivers and Waterways. The public is invited to contribute information and opinions about the topic of river restoration.The Legislature’s Study Committee will include this testimony and information in their Des Moines meeting in December to analyze the input from around the state.

Residents and organizations from the counties of Johnson, Iowa, Linn, Cedar, Muscatine and Washington are especially encouraged to participate, though people from other eastern Iowa locales are welcome. State legislators from the area as well as from the Study Committee have been invited.

Specifically, the Study Committee wants to determine: What kind of river and waterway projects should the state consider supporting? How should projects be prioritized? What goals should define Iowa’s river investment program? What improvements related to Iowa’s rivers should be measured?

At the beginning of the meeting there will be a short overview on river health issues in Iowa, and a charge from State Legislator Chuck Isenhart, a ranking member of the Environmental Protection Committee and liaison to the Watershed Planning Advisory Council. Individuals and groups who wish to make input should address one or more of the preceding questions related to river and waterway improvement. There will be opportunity for people to make written contributions to the Study Committee as well as oral comments on November 23rd.

For those who are unable to attend the meeting, you can submit feedback to the Iowa River Friends through the survey available here – Iowa Rivers & Waterways Survey. Responses to the survey are anonymously recorded and will be shared with the legislature’s study committee.

Iowa River Friends, formed early this year, is dedicated to improving, protecting, and enjoying the Iowa River, its creeks and streams. I.R.F. seeks to include a wide variety of interests and stakeholders in its membership and governance, and to act as a bulletin board for information pertaining to the watershed.

For more information about I.R.F. or the public meeting, contact the Iowa River Friends’ Executive Committee Members:

Mel Schlachter, Chairperson, 319.351.4380
Mary Skopec, Vice-Chair, 319.560.7365
Carol Sweeting, Secretary, 319.356.5164
Del Holland, Treasurer, 319.594.2957
Mary Beth Stevenson, Recording / Corresponding Secretary, 319.325.8593

The Cost of Carbon – 24 Hours of Reality

the-climate-reality-project-logoOn Oct. 22 and 23, The Climate Reality Project will connect the dots between carbon pollution and climate change with the global live-streamed broadcast “24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon.” here’s the link:

In Iowa, men and women in the agricultural community are talking about the likelihood of four or five more years of continued drought. Harry Hillaker, Iowa state climatologist, indicated 2013 was the wettest spring on record. He confirmed this summer’s drought conditions in Iowa. Like this year, the prospect for coming years is wet springs combined with long summer periods of little or no precipitation. There is no doubt human activity is contributing to this extreme weather, and that carbon pollution is the driving force behind it.

Not only are extreme weather events happening in Iowa, they are happening throughout the world. Extreme weather has a tangible cost in dollars, and in its impact on human society. 24 Hours of Reality will bring a global perspective to the climate crisis.

There are a lot of reasons to participate in 24 Hours of Reality, and here are three topics of interest in the program:

Chances are, you’re exposed to the cost of carbon pollution in ways you may not even realize— and the bill just keeps getting more expensive. 24 Hours of Reality will provide a tool to calculate the cost of carbon to individual communities.

Climate change can lead to rising food prices in wealthy nations, but in some regions, the consequences can be much more severe, threatening basic food security and leading to political instability in Somalia.

One of the greatest costs of climate change is what it means for our health. The broadcast goes to towns across Australia to witness the consequences of carbon pollution in terms of fire and flooding, and address what such changes mean for the health of ordinary people there and the world over.

24 Hours of Reality will address two key issues: protecting what we hold dear from the effects of climate change, and doing something to address the causes of our carbon pollution. Click here for a link to the 30 second trailer about 24 Hours of Reality.

I hope you will consider viewing part of 24 Hours of Reality on Oct. 22 and 23.

Call in Today on Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Reactor

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant

Nebraskans and Iowans

Please call in Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 1:30 until 4 p.m. CDT to listen and speak at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting with Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) to oppose the restart and call for a License Amendment before restarting the Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor

Dear Friends,

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) plans to restart the dangerous Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor after more than two years of being shut down for refueling, flooding, lost blueprints, insufficient structural beam and column support of equipment, future flood dangers from routine floods and an upstream dam failure. Flooding during operation of the plant could short electrical systems and affect cooling and other operations. It has also been discovered that the plant was built on top of fractured limestone, so a radioactive leak would go into the groundwater and the Missouri River.

This meeting will be on Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 1:30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Central time.

The public can present comments and questions at the end of the meeting.

We need as many folks as possible to let the NRC know that Fort Calhoun is not ready to restart and that OPPD needs to apply for a license amendment before the plant is allowed to restart.

The call-in number for the meeting is 1-877-917-3405, passcode 3179621.

 NRC meeting announcement and info page:

For more info, contact Wally Taylor, Iowa Sierra Club at   or 319-366-2428

Thanks for all that you do.

Michael Mariotte
Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Stay Informed:

NIRS on the web (stay up-to-date with the Nuclear Newsreel section on the front page, featuring the day’s most interesting news on nuclear power and other energy issues):

NIRS on Facebook:

NIRS on Twitter:!/nirsnet

Al Gore’s Optimism

Al Gore in Chicago

Al Gore in Chicago

Wednesday, the Washington Post published an Ezra Klein interview with former vice president Al Gore, titled, “Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming.”

Gore finds there is reason to be optimistic that public sentiment is changing regarding the rapidly increasing amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere and the fingerprints of man-made pollution found in severe weather occurring around the world. While climate deniers get upset, even outraged when people mention this fact, Gore believes it is possible to win the conversation on climate change. What does he mean by that? He explained,

I think the most important part of it is winning the conversation. I remember as a boy when the conversation on civil rights was won in the South. I remember a time when one of my friends made a racist joke and another said, hey man, we don’t go for that anymore. The same thing happened on apartheid. The same thing happened on the nuclear arms race with the freeze movement. The same thing happened in an earlier era with abolition. A few months ago, I saw an article about two gay men standing in line for pizza and some homophobe made an ugly comment about them holding hands and everyone else in line told them to shut up. We’re winning that conversation.

Winning the conversation on climate change means making it socially unacceptable to deny the science of man-made global warming pollution. According to Gore, “the conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned.” Focus on the word shrinking.

“… in spite of the continued released of 90 million tons of global warming pollution every day into the atmosphere, as if it’s an open sewer, we are now seeing the approach of a global political tipping point.”

According to Gore, it has already begun among politicians, including conservatives, who have grown weary of politicization of the science of global warming by climate deniers.

Another reason for optimism is the sharp and unexpectedly steep decrease in prices for electricity produced from wind and solar, providing a financially viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Some people really dislike Gore and what he represents. The film “An Inconvenient Truth” prompted some of this reaction,

The single most common criticism from skeptics when the film came out focused on the animation showing ocean water flowing into the World Trade Center memorial site. Skeptics called that demagogic and absurd and irresponsible. It happened last October 29th, years ahead of schedule, and the impact of that and many, many other similar events here and around the world has really begun to create a profound shift.

The truth about the man-made contribution to climate change is out. As it is understood, Al Gore’s optimism is expected to be vindicated.

Read the entire Ezra Klein interview with Al Gore on the Washington Post site here.

Preventing Floods, Saving Tax Dollars

Loebsack header

This spring, Iowa again saw rising rivers and streams across the State due to record levels of rainfall. As Iowans, the threat of flooding never seems far away, and it’s only getting worse. Each time waters begin to rise, thoughts of 2008 and the devastation that families and communities suffered quickly returns. This year the rising waters once again sent communities scrambling to prepare for the worst and thousands of acres of farmland sat underwater, unable to be planted. The rising waters also sent another check from the federal government to help cover the necessary disaster costs of preparing and recovery. We can do better.

In Iowa, folks like those at the Iowa Flood Center and the University of Iowa are doing work that is helping Iowa communities prepare better and smarter for flooding. This success is already at work saving our communities money, time, and resources. The entire country should follow Iowa’s lead in planning better and smarter for flooding in order to help families and communities, and achieve significant, long-term savings to the federal government. This is why last week I introduced the National Flood Research and Education Center Act (NFERC). This bill would create a National Flood Center to study ways to better predict and prevent flooding, and provide valuable information to the public.

Flooding is costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year for preparation and recovery. The prediction and prevention tools from a National Flood Center would help prevent damage and allow our communities to better allocate resources such as sand bags, machinery, volunteers, and temporary flood walls. Every year flooding costs taxpayers, and the new technologies and methods already being put to use in Iowa could save our country untold millions.

As Iowans, we have experienced the devastation that flooding can bring. I believe through a National Flood Center we can help prevent similar devastation across the country and in Iowa. We don’t need to wait for the next devastation to act. No time is better than now to get a National Flood Center into action to save lives and resources, and achieve significant long-term savings. I look forward to chatting more about my bill with you in Iowa soon.


Dave Loebsack
Iowa’s Second District

Climate March Staff Trained by Al Gore

Great Climate March Staff

Great Climate March Staff

CHICAGO, Ill.– The staff of The Great March for Climate Action was spotted by Blog for Iowa at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training held in Chicago from July 30 through Aug. 1. (L to R: Shari Hrdina, Zach Heffernen and Courtney Kain). The event was the 23rd training of climate leaders conducted by former vice president Al Gore since exiting politics. As Gore said about himself, “I am a recovering politician.” The Climate Reality Project has become an important part of his life’s work.

On July 31, Gore began a twelve hour day by presenting the latest version of the slide show he developed that became the book and film An Inconvenient Truth. He then explained the slide show, one slide at a time, so attendees could present it themselves. He closed the day with group photos with training attendees. The Great March for Climate Action staff was part of a cadre of 1,200 people from all 50 states and 40 countries who participated in the training.

While the Great March for Climate Action has not been endorsed by the Climate Reality Project, organizers permitted staff to distribute brochures about the march to attendees. During the final day of the training, Mario Molina, Climate Leadership Corps Director, made an announcement about the march to the group, calling attention to the staff, encouraging attendees to seek more information.

Courtney Kain is the Great March for Climate Action operations director, and importantly, in charge of logistics. Her background includes time with Iowa Army National Guard at Camp Dodge, where she worked in supply and logistics. Kain was instrumental in developing the march route, and is developing sustainable methods to move, feed and take care of 1,000 people over the course of their 3,000 mile journey.

According to Zach Heffernen, marcher director, about 20 applications to join the march had been approved. Speaking of the marcher recruitment effort, he said, “sending out the application is very exciting for me. The diversity of individuals who requested an application is impressive. They range in age from nine to 74, originate from all along the West Coast to the Midwest to all along the East Coast, and have backgrounds ranging from college students, to self employed business professionals, to medical doctors, to retirees and everything in between.” Attendees of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training expressed interest, and some of them had already been approved for the march.

While Courtney and Zach will be joining Ed Fallon and the rest of the marchers, Shari Hrdina will remain in Des Moines providing financial support for the endeavor.

According to the Great March for Climate Action Facebook page, “marchers can look forward to seeing the official updated version of the “Inconvenient Truth” slideshow on the march next year.”

For more information about the Great March for Climate Action, check out their web site by clicking here. To learn more about the Climate Reality Project, click here.

Are GMOs Killing Monarch Butterflies?

Photo Credit Conservation Magazine

Photo Credit Conservation Magazine

The population of Monarch butterflies declined sharply this year. In Iowa, they have seldom been seen, even among people who preserve their milkweed plants for the orange and black insects to feed and reproduce. According to official counts, the population declined by as much as eighty percent in Mexico this winter.

During a recent interview, Orley Taylor— founder and director of Monarch Watch, a conservation and outreach program— talked about the factors that have led to the sharp drop in the monarch population. Among them, Taylor said, is the increased planting of genetically modified corn in the U.S. Midwest, which has led to greater use of herbicides, which in turn kills the milkweed that is a prime food source for the butterflies.

“What we’re seeing here in the United States,” he said, “is a very precipitous decline of monarchs that’s coincident with the adoption of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans.”

There isn’t a clear answer to why Monarch butterflies are in decline. There are concerns that the lower population makes survival of the species, and its ability to rebound to previous numbers tenuous. If you’d like to read more, here are some useful articles:

Why Monarch Butterflies’ Numbers are in Freefall by Vidya Kowri.

The Monarch Butterfly Decline, and What You Can Do About It by Matt Miller.

Tracking the Causes of Sharp Decline of the Monarch Butterfly by Richard Conniff.

New Study on Bee Colony Collapse

save the beesA new study indicates that identifying and resolving the environmental issues surrounding bee colony collapse disorder in the United States is more complicated than banning a class of insecticides (neonicotinoids) as has been suggested in social media and elsewhere.

What researchers found when studying pollen collected from bee hives near seven major crops was that pesticides and pathogens may interact to have strong negative effects on managed honey bee colonies. What was surprising about the study was there were high concentrations of fungicides in the pollen samples. While fungicides are typically seen as safe for honey bees, the study found an increased incidence of Nosema infection in bees that collected pollen with a higher fungicide load. In layperson’s terms, a witches brew of pesticides and fungicides is forming, in and surrounding fields targeted for pollination, and the chemicals are interacting. When exposed, it weakens bee resistance to a parasite that contributes to bee colony collapse.

To learn more about the study, read the general article, “Scientists Discover What’s Killing the Bees and It’s Worse Than You Thought” by Todd Woody, or dive into the study, “Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides Which Alters Their Susceptibility to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae” replete with charts, graphs and PowerPoint slides here.

RAGBRAI and Iowa Politics

From Trish Nelson at RAGBRAI

From Trish Nelson at RAGBRAI

Trish Nelson, regular editor of Blog for Iowa, posted this photo on the Internet, reminding us that there is a world outside the confines of what Al Gore described as “the worldwide digital communications, Internet, and computer revolutions (which) have led to the emergence of ‘the Global Mind,’ which links the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and connects intelligent machines, robots, ubiquitous sensors, and databases.” That is, outside blogs, Facebook, twitter, the World Wide Web and cable TV.

On the real world front, while Governor Branstad was participating in RAGBRAI, his staff was meeting behind closed doors with regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff regarding Iowa’s compliance with the Clean Water Act. Read the community organizing group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) article here.

Putting the best face on it, the governor is managing mandatory compliance with the EPA on a number of fronts, including the Clean Water Act. Elections matter, and Iowa chose Terry Branstad, along with his views on EPA compliance, in 2010. To put the Iowa CCI face on it, they recirculated their frequent meme, “…the Farm Bureau does not run this state,” and demanded transparency. Both points have some validity, and there is no surprise by any of this as both party’s positions regarding concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are well known and have been.

Here’s the rub. In the May 31 letter from EPA staffer Karl Brooks to governor Branstad, Brooks wrote, “I respectfully suggest that those regulated parties with the most interest in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Clean Water Act permitting and evaluation should be invited to this conversation.” While some members of Iowa CCI may be “regulated parties,” the governor was under no obligation to hold public hearings on the matter and didn’t. The Iowa Farm Bureau response, with recommended revisions to the CAFO program work plan, was not only expected, it was, for the most part, the purpose of the meeting. The Iowa CCI response to the meeting was, like so many of their news releases, a red herring that gained some press coverage but diluted their effectiveness. I appreciate Iowa CCI making the information readily available, but there is no news here for anyone who follows water and air quality issues in Iowa. This meeting was predictable, and consistent with the Branstad administration outlook on EPA compliance.

For most Iowans who participate in RAGBRAI, it is a chance to get away from the daily grind for a while. The governor and thousands of others are participating in RAGBRAI, and for Branstad, as a politician, it was a photo opportunity. For Iowa CCI, RAGBRAI was a news hook to beat the drum on one of their core issues, one they know well.  One of my groups, Veterans for Peace, uses RAGBRAI to publicize the true cost of our wars, as do a host of groups with their pet issues. All of it is good in what remains of our democracy.

The point is that involvement in a specific cause, regardless of how vocal one is, does not equate political change. There is a lot to hate about the Branstad’s approach to clean water, clean air and compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency. To effect political change means getting involved and working for political candidates, most of whom are subject to influence by moneyed interests like the Iowa Farm Bureau. Any candidate who dismisses as irrelevant the Farm Bureau, the livestock producers and row crop associations won’t be elected to statewide office in Iowa. It’s not going to happen in 2014.

Groups like Iowa CCI make political results more difficult when they throw out red meat as bait for their members and supporters, when most people are tuned out. For one, I’d like to see Iowa CCI less divisive and more involved with electing candidates that support progressive views, as many of their members are, and less focused on braggadocio after hammering the same nail once again.

RAGBRAI is happening, the summer weather has been unusually nice, and most people I know are unplugged from the global mind and living in the real world under Branstad until we can do better. For me, I prefer not to dip even a bicycle in the contaminated Mississippi River, long bike ride or not. Whether we as a state will do better on water quality and compliance with EPA depends a lot on whether people get together to elect a new governor in 2014. The work of doing so should begin now.

Iowa’s Culture of Climate Change

Harvesting Soybeans

Harvesting Soybeans

David Biello of Slate wrote an opinion piece in Newsday titled, “Why Don’t Farmers Believe in Climate Change,” on July 16. Link to the article here or here, but here’s a spoiler alert: it’s the Farm Bureau. I commented on the article, but my comment was removed because it violated Newsday’s conditions of use. It’s their world. What’s a blogger to do? If you’re reading this, you know the answer.

In the article, Biello wrote, “take, as an example of skepticism, Iowa corn farmer Dave Miller, whose day job is as an economist for the Iowa Farm Bureau. As Miller is happy to explain, it’s not that farmers in Iowa don’t think climate change is happening; it’s that they think it’s always been happening and therefore is unlikely to have much to do with whatever us humans get up to down at ground level. Or, as the National Farm Bureau’s spokesman Mace Thornton puts it: ‘we’re not convinced that the climate change we’re seeing is anthropogenic in origin. We don’t think the science is there to show that in a convincing way.’”

If there is a record drought like last year, large farmers will capitalize the loss over a period of years, plow the crop under and start over next season. For them, it’s just another aspect of dealing with farming as a business. This attitude is consistent with what I experienced when listening to row crop farmers in Iowa.

The idea, “they think it’s always been happening and therefore is unlikely to have much to do with whatever us humans get up to down at ground level,” is ridiculous. Climate change doesn’t just happen— it happens for a reason. And today, the main reason is carbon pollution from dirty energy like coal, oil and natural gas.

I encourage you to read the article if you are interested in the interface between Iowa farmers, the Farm Bureau and the environment. There is a lot to learn before Iowa makes progress in protecting our environment. Some say the Iowa Farm Bureau runs the state of Iowa. I say it could only do so in a vacuum of action from people whose views are closer to the reality of climate change.