This is our home state of Iowa, and we need to snap into action to better protect it. Basic home defense.
Floods keep intensifying, and cities and counties are the ones who have to deal with the day-to-day disaster of flooded residents, washed-out roads and damage to public infrastructure. No other city in Iowa knows that reality like Cedar Rapids.
Based on everything we know from science and direct experience, to make Iowa more resilient to a changing climate we need to do three things upstream:
1. Manage the floodplains by giving more room to the rivers and streams of this beautiful state. This means do not damage or impair the floodplains, do not build in it, do not fill it in! Floodplains are not idle pieces of land sitting there waiting to be developed. They are treasures that offer vital ecosystem services, such as flood control, all for free. Iowa DNR’s oversight and staff over flood plain management is weak, and legislators keep cutting their funds.
2. Enact policies that incentivize cropping systems and biodiversity solutions that restore soil quality and make Iowa more spongy. Long-term studies have produced results, and state policymakers need to pay attention and act on those results. We will need less corn, more crop diversity, longer crop rotations, more deep-rooting native vegetation, more buffer zones, more riparian habitats, more wetlands. A productive, soil-building agriculture that stores water in the soil profile upstream is entirely possible, practical and high-yielding. It is these solutions that, if implemented upstream, will significantly reduce flooding in Cedar Rapids for the long run.
3. Protect the stability of the atmosphere by investing in emission reduction, energy conservation and renewable energy. Most landfills in Iowa continue to emit vast quantities of methane, and while wind energy is great, Iowa still relies heavily on troublesome coal. Iowa has long ways to go. Renewable energy is not enough. We have to learn and commit to using significantly less energy and material. Which state office is committed to this crucial task?
Sandbagging is not enough, not a lasting solution, and does not address upstream problems, which keep growing. Let’s work on lasting solutions.
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Local and state policymakers need to heed science and evidence. If indeed we value science and engineering, then we have to act on insights from science and engineering to better protect our land, water and well-being in Iowa.
l Kamyar Enshayan is an agricultural engineer, works at the University of Northern Iowa and served on the Cedar Falls City Council.