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Saving Linn County's Natural Resources: It's Our Legacy

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Kristin Eschweiler, guest columnist

As President of the Linn County Conservation Board, it is my responsibility to promote and preserve the health and general welfare of the people of Linn County, encourage the orderly development and conservation of natural resources, and to cultivate good citizenship by providing adequate programs of public recreation.

But I’m also concerned about preserving our vulnerable natural resources, especially clean drinking water, for the future generations of Linn County, as well as affording greater access to outdoor recreation, as kids nowadays spend more and more time in front of a screen, and child obesity levels are at an all-time high.

Life for today’s children is so different from ours at their age, especially the quality and health of our local rivers and streams. I never heard of algae blooms or nitrates growing up, and never thought twice about swimming in Linn County’s rivers and creeks or drinking my water from the tap. But I do now — I don’t feel like I have a choice.

Cedar Rapids water is safe to drink due to technology and our water treatment staff. Yet, there are currently 19 segments of impaired waterways in nine bodies of water in Linn County, including the Cedar River and Morgan Creek. All contain bacteria due to high levels of nitrates and other contaminates. Bacteria is the last word parents should have to hear, especially when it comes to their children’s drinking water sources. I’m thankful that Linn County has the resources to remove nitrates from our waterways and keep our drinking water safe. But that doesn’t help me sleep at night, not when our water quality continues to worsen.

What does help me sleep at night are the wetlands surrounding Linn County, and their success at helping reduce the impact of what could have been catastrophic flooding this past week. Many families and businesses were still impacted, but natural areas for floodwater storage can help decrease the severity of many flood events. Wetlands are vital to protecting, improving, and restoring our water quality; providing fish and wildlife habitats; and storing floodwaters. Yet, over the past century, the vast majority of Iowa’s wetlands have been drained for agricultural use. Just like agriculture is a priority in Iowa, so should our water quality and natural resources be as well. As our rainfalls become more severe making flooding a constant threat, it is imperative that we protect and restore our vulnerable wetlands.

This November, Linn County voters will have the opportunity to invest in the health and well-being of today and future generations by voting Yes on Linn County’s Water & Land Legacy Bond. Voting Yes means investing in protecting and restoring clean drinking water, and wetlands for natural storage of floodwaters; providing more outdoor recreational experiences for walking, hiking, biking, and other activities; constructing new trails and connecting current trails to communities, people and nature; and improving our parks.

Our natural environment is the only one we’ve got. It’s time to protect and preserve it for the next generation while we still can. I hope you’ll join me in voting Yes for Linn County’s Water & Land Legacy Bond on Nov. 8. It’s our legacy.

• More information: www.yeslinncounty.org

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