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Posts Tagged ‘Iowa water quality’

Chuck Isenhart Addresses Iowa Clean Water Strategy

Raccoon River

Raccoon River

On Wednesday, Aug. 3, State Rep. Chuck Isenhart issued a press release addressing the need for Iowa government to update the state’s clean water strategy.

Following a visit to Louisiana, where he consulted with stakeholders regarding Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, Isenhart wrote a letter to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey urging the Water Resources Coordinating Council to adopt a 20 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus load. Read his July 17 letter here.

Isenhart is ranking member of the House Environmental Protection Committee and a leading voice for the environment and on energy issues in the Iowa legislature. Following is his press release in its entirety.

Time to update state clean water strategy

In light of Gov. Terry Branstad’s renewed call for more funding for water quality initiatives, State Rep. Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque) has asked the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to update Iowa’s nutrient reduction strategy to establish performance goals to be achieved with any new money.

In a letter to the Water Resources Coordinating Council — chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey — Isenhart has encouraged the body of state and federal officials to recommend that Iowa adopt the interim milestones endorsed by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force

Northey is co-chair of that task force. Isenhart is ranking member on the House Environmental Protection Committee and liaison to the state Watershed Planning Advisory Council.

The Gulf task force’s 2015 report to Congress called for a 20 percent nitrogen and phosphorus load reduction at the watershed scale by the year 2025.

“After three years of demonstration projects, we know what works,” Isenhart said. “Time to move to the implementation stage and scale up our efforts with widespread adoption of effective pollution-reduction practices. But first we owe it to Iowa citizens to show them how we will be accountable and what their money will buy: How clean will the water be and when will it happen.”

Isenhart noted that, while the Gulf task force is looking for documented results by 2025, Governor Branstad’s funding plan doesn’t kick in until 2029. “That is a glaring oversight, hopefully not intentional,” he said.

During the last legislative session, Isenhart and State Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) offered an “Iowa Clean Water Partnership Plan,” based on their participation in the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Iowa’s Soil and Water Future Task Force.

If adopted, the plan would create a clean water trust fund comprised of both public and private monies contributed by farm producers through water quality checkoff programs. The legislators plan to improve and re-introduce the bill in 2017.

“In the meantime, we will continue to educate and learn from Iowans during the upcoming election campaign season,” Isenhart continued. “We want to know if we are on the right track. We also want to know if Iowa voters still want us to raise the sales tax by 3/8 cent to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust fund they put in the Constitution with a 2010 referendum.

“If Iowans still want it — and surveys indicate that they do — that would bring the greatest, most consistent funding that a long-term enterprise like this requires,” he said.

This week, Isenhart is attending the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Chicago. He serves on NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee.

Isenhart has offered an amendment to the NCSL water policy directive that would prioritize nitrogen and phosphorus pollution as a water quality improvement objective in the Mississippi River basin and “wherever such pollution from pervasive point and non-point sources creates serious hypoxic conditions in waters of economic, ecological and/or recreational significance.”

The proposal also calls on the federal government to “foster and assist in the financing and support of working groups of state legislators within major watersheds where water pollution is a multi-state responsibility.”

Such working groups or compacts could be formed to “coordinate the development of strategies, policies, statutes, regulations and spending priorities for the attainment of clean water, including goals, timelines and accountability for performance,” Isenhart explained. “Right now, many state legislatures are AWOL when it comes to clean water. We need to get in the boat.”

Bakken Pipeline Fight Still Alive

Bakken Pipeline Proposed RouteIowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Yesterday, we joined the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition for a powerful rally that lifted up how eminent domain has been abused to take Iowa land for the profit of Dakota Access.

This was just one day after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) signed off on the Bakken Pipeline boring under a sacred Meskwaki burial site. The site is in the Sioux Watershed Management Area, an eco system that is highly sensitive to any disruption.

Landowners, the Meskwaki tribe of Iowa, and citizen activists from around the state have banded together to say: The fight’s not over! You can watch coverage from yesterday’s rally here.

Here is what’s coming up in the #NoBakken fight:

We’re going to be in Pilot Mound on Saturday, June 25 with our floating protest to raise awareness of the risk to Iowa’s waterways. Click here for more details!

There are still plenty of ways this toxic proposal can be shut down: the Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued their permit for the pipeline, there is a good chance that the Environmental Protection Agency will intervene on the grounds of environmental justice, and Boone County is getting serious about passing a community rights ordinance that could prohibit the abuse of eminent domain.

We will keep you posted in the fight for a clean energy Iowa,

Community Organizer
Iowa CCI

P.S. Chip in $5, $10, or $25 to keep this fight going strong!

We’re currently at 4,804 Facebook followers. Help us get to 5,000 fans!

Action Alert: DNR Factory Farm Rules Review

Factory farms poisoning IowaAction Alert from Iowa Citizens for Commuinity Improvement (CCI)

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reviews factory farm rules once every five years. This is our chance to strengthen the rules and hold factory farms accountable!

We need YOU at the DNR hearing in Ainsworth to stand up for a Clean Water Iowa. Our strength is in numbers—in people power.

Register to join us here! 

Here is what you need to know:

When: Tuesday, May 31 at 10 am | Please join us for a prep session at 9:30 am at the location below!

Where: Washington County Conservation Board, Education Center, Marr Park, 2943 Highway 92,  Ainsworth

We would love for you to share your story about why we have to stop factory farms.

We’re fighting for rules that include:

  • Tough regulations to protect our water, air, and communities
  • Accountability by closing corporate factory farm loopholes
  • Transparency of manure application records and from factory farm stakeholders
  • A moratorium on new and expanding factory farms!

We’re in a water crisis because of factory farm manure pollution. Voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

I hope you can join us: register here!

They DUMP it, you DRINK it, we won’t stop ’til they clean it up!

Executive Director

P.S. Can’t join us in-person? Submit your comment online demanding stronger rules to hold factory farms accountable here. We need 1,000 comments by June: help us get there!

We’re currently at 4,72 Facebook followers. Help us get to 5,000 fans!

Dave Loebsack Doing His Job

Rep. Dave Loebsack talks about Iowa’s water quality problem, superdelegates, and more..  Watch the entire half-hour interview with Iowa’s only Democrat in Congress here on IPTV.


Majority of Iowa Waterways Exceed Drinkable Nitrate Limit

Iowa Water Quality Information System

Click on the image to go to

KC McGinnis | May 3, 2016

Data from the Iowa Water Quality Information System (IWQIS) shows that more than half of Iowa’s waterways being recorded currently exceed the nitrate threshold of 10 mg/l, with several outpacing levels from previous years.

Weeks of warm spring temperatures followed by a week of consistent rain throughout the state last week may have contributed to a spike in nitrate in Iowa’s waterways as it was washed out of fields where it had previously been applied in fertilizers, either as part of the planting process or in the form of anhydrous ammonia in the fall. Nitrate is a pollutant that must be removed at water treatment plants before the water can be suitable for drinking, sometimes at great cost to the plants. Excess nitrate can also cause the spread of toxic algae in lakes and ponds and contributes to a lack of oxygen in the Gulf of Mexico, causing what’s known as a Dead Zone.

Nitrate levels are well ahead of where they were in previous years by this time. Annual data available through IWQIS shows that the Daily Accumulated Yield (the amount of nitrate per watershed acre) in the North Raccoon River is at a level not reached until late May of 2015 and not until late September of 2014. Similar progress can be seen at the South Fork Iowa River in north central Iowa, where nitrate levels are currently the highest in the state at about double the drinkable limit.

The Iowa Water Quality Information System, developed by the University of Iowa IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, has a wealth of data available to the public on Iowa’s water quality.  Click here to go to their website and view a tutorial on how to use the system.

Bill Stowe, An Iowa Hero

“We are in a water crisis in this state… We have sold our souls to the devil..”


How You Can Help Defeat Branstad’s Corrupt Agenda For Iowa

alec-exposed-in-iowa-14-638It doesn’t have to be a model ALEC bill. Branstad is still facilitating ALEC’s anti-public education, pro-corporation agenda with this plan. To him, Iowa’s terrible water quality is just another perfect opportunity to take money from public education and give it to his friends.

Action Alert From Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI):

Branstad’s $4.7 Billion Blunder

Governor Branstad’s plan to steal funds from schools to support “voluntary” measures should be DOA.

Branstad has released his “signature” plan for water quality, and the idea stinks more than the factory farm manure polluting our rivers!

The Governor – now acknowledging that Iowa is facing a clean water crisis – thinks that voluntary measures will work to clean it up. And to support those voluntary measures he has proposed taking $4.7 billion dollars over the next 30 years out of a voter approves fund that supports school and education infrastructure.

Take action now to stop House File 2382 – corporate ag must pay to clean up their own mess, not us.

We shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially when it hurts our communities’ schools.

And, we shouldn’t throw tax-payer money at voluntary measures that don’t work. NO industry has voluntarily regulated itself.

We need tough rules and regulations that crack down on factory farm and ag pollution, not public funded measures that let corporate agribusinesses carry on with business as usual.

Take action now for a Clean Water Iowa! Tell your legislator to vote no on Branstad’s bad water plan bill.

Help Iowa CCI Action reach 2,000 fans on Facebook. Click here!

2001 Forest Ave
Des Moines, IA 50311-3229
515-282-0484 .

Ernst Characterizes Environmental Protection Agency As “Unelected Bureaucrats”

joni ernst the perfect Koch investmentThis article make it clear that our U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, has no interest in working to clean up Iowa’s water.  She and her fellow GOP cronies are more worried about power and posturing. Following President Obama’s veto of her proposal to block new federal regulations to protect our drinking water, she said the new rule is “complex, burdensome and overreaching” and  “this rule is not about clean water. Rather, it is about how much authority the federal government and unelected bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land.” 

No Senator Ernst, the rule is in fact about clean water.  And yes, if someone is poisoning the water supply, I want my government to do something about it.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, stymied by a presidential veto, said she would explore other ways to stop a White House rule regulating small bodies of water that she says will hurt Iowa and other states.

Late Tuesday, President Barack Obama vetoed a congressional resolution that Ernst sponsored in the Senate and would have blocked the new federal “waters of the United States” regulations.

Obama told members of Congress the new rule “is critical to our efforts to protect the nation’s waters and keep them clean.” The president said he could not support Ernst’s resolution because it blocks progress and denies businesses and communities “the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water.”

Ernst said the rule is “complex, burdensome and overreaching” and she would look for other ways to scrap it. She did not outline what other options are available.

“We all want clean water — that is not disputable,” Ernst said. “However, this rule is not about clean water. Rather, it is about how much authority the federal government and unelected bureaucrats should have to regulate what is done on private land.”

The Iowa Republican said the rule gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate water on 97 percent of land in Iowa, which could threaten the livelihood of people across the state.

Republicans and farm groups have said the rule gives the government too much power to regulate their land and potentially subject ditches, stream beds and self-made ponds to new oversight. Farmers worry they would have to pay for costly environmental assessments and apply for more permits.

The administration has said the Clean Water Rule is needed to clarify the Clean Water Act by specifying the types of bodies of water regulated by the 1972 measure.

Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said a veto was the right decision to protect the nation’s waterways.”Every American who hunts, fishes, swims or kayaks — or who just wants to drink clean water from the tap — will benefit from this rule,” he said.

Progress Iowa On The State Of The State

progress iowa

Once again the folks at Progress Iowa listen to Governor Branstad and find his words do not match reality. Three press releases from Progress Iowa’s Communication Director Monica Biddix shows how the Governor is out of step with Iowans. Three specific areas are highlighted, but the overall thrust of the Governor’s speech is to ignore what the average Iowan is concerned about.

The first area that Branstad falls far short of the expectations of Iowans is his continuing distortion of job numbers under his administration. From the press release:

Progress Iowa Responds to Gov. Branstad’s Distorted Job Figures

““Governor Branstad’s job claims just don’t add up. He wants us to believe two minus one equals two by refusing to count any jobs that are lost, and Iowans aren’t buying it. We deserve to hear the truth from our Governor, not political distortions meant to cover up a failed campaign promise.”.”

To validate this statement the press release cited the Des Moines Register in December took the Branstad Administration to task (as have many news organizations in Iowa) for the distortion:

As reported by the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Branstad crowed, “We hit that mark last week,” and then asked Townsend to back up the PowerPoint slide to again show the evidence that, just in the nick of time, he had met his deadline for creating 200,000 new jobs.

Here’s the thing: The net increase in jobs since January 2011 is actually about 101,700.
(emphasis added)

The second area that Progress Iowa takes issue with the Governor on is his idea to take money from a sales tax earmarked for schools to address the severe water quality problem in Iowa.

Progress Iowa Responds to Gov. Branstad’s False Choice Between Quality Water and Quality Education

Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in response to Governor Branstad’s proposal to divert funding from Iowa schools:

“Governor Branstad just doesn’t get it. Iowans deserve quality water and quality education, and our state budget should reflect that. After vetoing bipartisan legislation last year that would have added $55.7 million for K-12 education, he’s now attempting to divert funds specifically earmarked for education, and today refused to follow state law by pursuing funding for next year. Iowans deserve better than being presented with this false choice by their Governor. By undercutting both clean water and Iowa schools, the Governor proved today he doesn’t truly value either.”

Finally, Progress Iowa took note that the Governor once again seemed to pretend that middle class or poverty issues did not exist in the state:

Branstad Ignores Middle Class in Condition of the State Address

Branstad refuses to say the words ‘middle class’ during condition of the state address for the second year in a row

Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Branstad failed to mention Iowa’s middle class during his Condition of the State address for the second year in a row. Today Branstad outlined his priorities for the upcoming year and legislative session.

Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued the following statement in response to the Governor’s remarks, which also failed to mention poverty or our state’s stagnant minimum wage:

“For the second year in a row, Governor Branstad failed to even mention the words ‘middle class’ during his condition of the state address. The Governor also failed to mention poverty, or bring up the minimum wage, despite the fact that Iowa’s low-wage workers have been waiting longer than any in the country for a raise.”

“Perhaps he failed to mention the middle class because his agenda is an attack on Iowa’s middle class. By shortchanging our schools, outsourcing the health care of 560,000 Iowans by privatizing Medicaid, and refusing to pursue an increase in our state’s minimum wage, he is leaving the middle class and those in poverty behind.”

“Iowans know that the foundation of our economy and our state’s success is a strong and growing middle class. The Governor’s priorities in his address today were completely out of step with everyday Iowa values.”

Iowa needs to retire this governor once and for all in 2018. He needs to be replaced with a person who is in touch with everyday Iowans and in touch with reality.

Iowa Has A Water Problem

Iowa Row Crops

Iowa Row Crops

DES MOINES—”We have a water problem,” Mayor Frank Cownie said at the state convention of the League of Women Voters of Iowa on Saturday.

Like all municipalities, the Des Moines Water Works must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency standards for maximum contaminant level in water processed and sent into its system. Peak nitrate levels in source waters have taxed the city’s ability to meet its obligations.

The problem is nitrates in the water, however, the bigger problem for Des Moines is nitrate discharge into drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties which feed its source.

“The current denitrification technology is outdated and cannot continue to operate with rising nitrate levels and increased customer demand.” according to the Des Moines Water Works. “Continued high nitrate concentrations will require future capital investments of $76-183 million to remove the pollutant and provide safe drinking water to a growing central Iowa.”

Nitrate runoff is an unrecognized environmental cost of farm operations. The lawsuit filed in the case asserts that the drainage districts named are point sources of nitrate runoff and should be regulated as such.

There is a lot of chatter about the lawsuit the Des Moines Water Works filed to establish a cost to people who use nitrogen fertilizer that contributes to water pollution. Here is their rationale from their website:

  • Des Moines Water Works filed a complaint in Federal District Court – Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, on March 16, 2015.
  • The complaint seeks to declare the named drainage districts are “point sources,” not exempt from regulation, and are required to have a permit under federal and Iowa law.
  • The complaint states that the drainage districts have violated and continue to be in violation of the Clean Water Act and Chapter 455B, Code of Iowa, and demands the drainage districts take all necessary actions, including ceasing all discharges of nitrate that are not authorized by an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
  • In addition, damages are demanded to Des Moines Waters to compensate for the harm caused by the drainage districts unlawful discharge of nitrate, assess civil penalties, and award litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees to Des Moines Water Works as authorized by law.
  • Des Moines Water Works’ mission is to provide safe, abundant and affordable water to our customers. Des Moines Water Works is fighting for the protection of customers’ right to safe drinking water. Through this legal process, Des Moines Water Works hopes to reduce long-term health risks and unsustainable economic costs to provide safe drinking water to our customers, via permit and regulation of drainage districts as pollutant sources.
  • Continued insistence from state leaders that the voluntary approach of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is working does not give solace to the 500,000 central Iowans who must now pay to remove pollution from their drinking water.

While this lawsuit is specific to Des Moines, there are a lot of unrecognized environmental costs in diverse business operations. Set all the partisan chatter about this issue aside and the fact remains there is a tangible cost, that someone should pay. It is a cost measured in risks to human health, environmental degradation and inadequate financial models in business.

Thanks to the Des Moines Water Works, we can begin to put a dollar figure to it.