Judge: Some federal role needed to improve water quality

'The days of looking at voluntary compliance are probably very short now'

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JOHNSTON — Democratic senatorial candidate Patty Judge said Friday solving the multistate issue of water quality is likely to need a federal regulatory role along with state and local efforts due to the size and cost of addressing the problem for the long term.

Some farm groups and political leaders, like Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, support a voluntary approach to reducing nitrates and phosphates flowing into downstream waterways from farm fields and urban systems. But Judge, a former state ag secretary, said that alone is not going to solve the problem of “deteriorating” water quality quickly enough.

“The federal government does have a regulatory role and will have in the future,” Judge, an Albia Democrat who also served as a state senator and lieutenant governor, said during Friday’s taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show. She is challenging Iowa’s six-term GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley in the Nov. 8 general election.

“I think the days of looking at voluntary compliance are probably very short now and we are at a point where we will have to have some standards and regulations,” said Judge, whose family runs a cow-calf operation near Albia.

“Our job as legislators is to make sure those are realistic, are something that farms can comply with and still farm and I believe we can do that,” she said. “We can write standards so that they work for family farmers. But we are going to have to be serious about cleaning up the water.”

After the taping, Judge told reporters progress requires diligent elected officials in Congress to make certain there is a balanced, “common sense” regulatory approach by federal bureaucrats who have been accused of overreaching in the process of implementing environmental rules.

Judge’s remarks drew criticism from the Grassley camp.

“It’s clear that Patty Judge plans to sell Iowa farmers down the river on the issue of water quality,” said Grassley Works state director Bob Haus. “She advocates unleashing the EPA on Iowa’s most important industry. This shows just how far from the farm she has gone, and how out of touch she is with agricultural issues.”

On another water-related issue, Judge said if she were a senator, she would be pushing for federal mitigation money so the Army Corps of Engineers could proceed with the work needed to protect Cedar Rapids from future flooding problems that resurfaced again this fall after the 2008 disaster.

“If I were in the Senate, that mitigation money would be something that I would try to be talking about every day. It is not enough to say that you wrote a letter, that you got a response back from the Corps of Engineers,” said Judge, a former state homeland security adviser.

“It is imperative that our federal delegation seriously pursue that funding and seriously pursue making certain that Cedar Rapids is able to put those mitigation measures into place. Climate change is real. This flood that we just had could have had devastating effects. We got lucky. We may not get lucky the next time and Cedar Rapids has got to have those measures and we have got to make certain that happens,” she noted.

Judge said problems like water quality, flood mitigation and immigration reform can’t be solved with political gridlock and posturing that has gripped Washington, D.C., for too long. She said she favors a comprehensive reform bill that passed the U.S. Senate two years ago that Grassley opposed before it stalled in the U.S. House.

During Friday’s stop at IPTV studios, Judge lamented the fact that she had hoped to debate Grassley face to face at the venue but that won’t happen now that the senator pulled out of the event. Instead, Grassley and Judge are slated to debate Oct. 19 at Morningside College in Sioux City. On Nov. 4, a WHO radio debate between the candidates takes place. Judge said Friday she has agreed to allow that debate to also be broadcast on WHO-TV, but Grassley has yet to say if he’ll accept that modification.

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