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Trading water data for propaganda in Iowa
Republicans who run the Iowa Legislature have sent Gov. Kim Reynolds a budget bill that would eliminate funding for a network of water quality sensors on the state’s rivers and streams. The 66 sensors measure the volume of nitrates and phosphorus flowing into Iowa waterways, mostly from farming operations.
The bill takes the $500,000 that funds the sensors and spends the money on nebulous “conservation practices.” It also removes code language directing the Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University, which administers the sensor network, from sharing its data with researchers at the University of Iowa.
The sensors are an important tool for measuring whether voluntary conservation efforts under the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy are having an effect on curtailing pollutants. What they’ve shown is little progress has been made cleaning up Iowa’s dirty water.
So rather than do anything meaningful to address the problem, lawmakers are shutting down the sensor network. It’s a blatantly obvious attempt to control the water quality narrative in Iowa, replacing real data with political platitudes and propaganda spun by large agricultural interests.
It’s no surprise that state Sen. Dan Zumbach, a Republican farmer from Ryan, led the charge to defund the sensor network. Two of the sensors are on Bloody Run Creek in Clayton County, a trout steam designated as one of Iowa’s “Outstanding Waters” by the Department of Natural Resources.
Zumbach’s son-in-law owns a 11,600-head cattle feed lot in the Blood Run Creek watershed, and the senator intervened in the permitting process as the DNR was evaluating the project. Just last week, a Polk County judge who found the process flawed threw out the feedlot’s permit.
So the GOP-majority has voted for a bill that values misinformation, political influence and the desires of special interest groups over real data showing the failures of Iowa’s water quality efforts. Keeping the public in the dark as to whether the conservation projects they pay for are actually working is now a legislative priority.
We urge Gov. Kim Reynolds to use her line-item veto pen to strike these provisions, knowing full well the same ag interests who want this change also solidly back the governor. It’s another frustrating, head-shaking and outrageous action brought to you by the Iowa Legislature.
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