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Home / Iowa environmental protection is in a coma. It’s really serious
So you hope we can clean up our impaired waterways? We can’t even protect our “outstanding” waters.
You’ve probably heard Iowa has hundreds of impaired waterways, sullied by algae and manure spills and fish kills, among other problems. But the state also has 34 “Outstanding Iowa Waters.” Most are cold-water trout streams in northeast Iowa.
They’re some of the most beautiful spots in our state. But beauty is no match for the beast, especially when the beast is livestock, by the thousands.
Bloody Run Creek in Clayton County near Monona is an outstanding trout stream. But last week the Iowa Department of Natural Resources approved a manure management plan for an 11,600 head cattle feedlot in its small watershed.
The plan is full of holes, flawed estimates and dubious assumptions as to how the operation will handle 34.5 million gallons of manure generated annually. Environmental groups urged the department to turn down the flawed plan, but on Friday it was approved. The DNR asked Supreme Beef, the outfit running the feedlot, to fill in some of the blanks by next year.
But mostly the department is just hoping it will all work out. Outstanding.
“If IDNR can approve this facility, which is located in sensitive karst topography, in the watershed of an Outstanding Iowa Water and important cold water trout streams, then current Iowa laws and regulations provide no protection of the public interest and exist solely to rubber stamp livestock industry interests,” said Ingrid Gronstal, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council in a statement following the decision.
Yep, that’s exactly where things stand in Iowa.
“In the context of water quality, this is the most discouraging thing I can recall, and I’ve been around for a while,” Chris Jones, a research engineer at the University of Iowa’s IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering said on Twitter.
“How some people sleep at night knowing they’ve enriched themselves by enabling the destruction of the public’s natural resources, I will never know,” he also tweeted.
It’s a unique way of life.
Environmental protection in Iowa is in a politically induced coma. The redder Iowa gets, the worse the state’s environment will get. Agricultural interests and their allies control the Legislature and the governor’s office. They control the regulatory processes and the Environmental Protection Commission. For people who actually care about environmental protection, there’s nowhere to turn.
All they can do is show up at hearings, express their concerns and then be ignored. Or they get attacked as being anti-farmer just because they argue farming’s got to change and strictly voluntary programs are not nearly enough. Look too closely at ag and you might get gagged.
Can we fill the empty Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund? No, unless all the water quality funds go to farmers for projects with no requirements for measuring effectiveness.
Can we fix the flawed “Master Matrix” scoring system for hog confinements? No way. Can we have water quality standards for our lakes so we know the true scope of pollution? No, because it would cost too much to clean up. Can we keep feedlots away from trout streams? Nope.
I’m a broken record, I know. But just try selling this dirty water state to young people and companies that truly care about the environment. The results will be less than outstanding.
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