Legislature

Iowa craft brewers support clean water efforts

Watercress growing in Farmer's Creek in Jackson County are an indicator of a healthy creek photographed on Thursday, December 6, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Watercress growing in Farmer's Creek in Jackson County are an indicator of a healthy creek photographed on Thursday, December 6, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — When it comes to water quality, Iowa brewers are paying attention.

“Everything we do revolves around water,” explained Ken Broadhead of Confluence Brewing Company. Water is 90 to 93 percent of the base of the beers the Des Moines-based brewery produces.

“Water quality is very important to us” and the 74 other Iowa breweries, Broadhead said at Fund the Trust day at the Capitol Tuesday.

Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy sponsored a legislative day at the Capitol to build support for what is being called the WISE solution — Water, Infrastructure and Soil for our Economy. It’s in House File 597, which has been proposed by 12 members of the House Republican majority. It calls for increasing the state sales tax by one-third of a cent a year for three years to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund that was created in 2010 with the approval of 63 percent of Iowa voters.

Also participating were Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever, and Above + Beyond, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society and the Iowa Public Health Association.

Much of the water quality discussion has centered on farm practices, drinking water and water recreation, but brewers are interested in clean water, too.

“Water is the most important thing in brewing,” said Mark Doll of Doll Distributing, a former Natural Resource Commission member who joined Broadhead to lend support to the WISE legislation. “It is the No. 1 thing. We have great water. We have great beers.”

They were joined by Jewell City Councilman Rick Young, who talked about how the trail systems, which could be funded out of the trust, can be economic development drivers, especially in small towns.

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In Jewell’s case, the JewEllsworth Trail that connects to the Jewell Jubilee Trail to form a 3.5 mile corridor between Jewell and Ellsworth has fueled “more demand for retail space than we have available,” he said. “That has not happened in 40 or 50 years in rural America.”

Young is bullish on the possibility that trails will bring people — economic development — to small towns like his if the Legislature approves funding the outdoor trust.

“Rural America, we deserve a chance,” Young said. “This is not the state of Des Moines. This is not the state of Polk County. This is the state of Iowa and we deserve our chance.”

The only way to make that happen is to pass the WISE legislation, he said.

HF 597 would phase in the funding over three years. When fully implemented, it would generate $180 million a year, with 60 percent of that going to proven water quality solutions outlined in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. However, there’s been no action on the bill since it was introduced March 20.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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