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921Fwd: Update on Dirty Water Bill

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  • Rick Dietz
    Apr 8, 2011
      Letters are still needed! And it sounds as though they may need to hear of some success stories, of improvements to water quality under the current programs.

      If you'd like to send comments from the IEC's Action Alert Center you can find the link at www.iaenvironment.org/news/newsbulletins.php. Additional contact information is under the "Elected Officials" tab on the Action Alert page.

      -------- Original Message --------
      Subject:Update on Dirty Water Bill
      Date:Fri, 8 Apr 2011 12:40:59 -0400
      From:Lynn Laws, Iowa Environmental Council <lynnlaws@...>

      Update on Dirty Water Bill
      Action Alert: Update on DNR Water Program Bill

      A Senate Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee met Thursday afternoon, for 90 minutes, to hear public comments on Senate File 500, a bill which would take some of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources's water quality funding and programs away from them and give them to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Senators Black, Hogg, Houser, Kapucian and Bolkcom were present to hear comments.

      In addition to comments from individual citizens, reasons for keeping the programs at the DNR were given by the Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Raccoon River Watershed Association and the Izaak Walton League.

      Marian Gelb, executive director for the Iowa Environmental Council, began her remarks with a question. She asked legislators to explain the problem the bill was attempting to fix. Senator Black, who chaired the subcommittee, said his concern was that water quality in Iowa isn't improving. Senator Hogg, who has been appointed floor manager for the bill, said, at this point, they were trying to determine where certain programs should be placed in order to achieve the greatest competency. He said that in the process of looking at this issue they may find out that the problem of the further decline in water quality in Iowa may be because we just haven't put enough money into fixing it.

      Mike Delaney, speaking on behalf of the Raccoon River Watershed Association and the Izaak Walton League, pointed out that the DNRs budget has been cut year after year and they are now operating at 1987 levels. Delaney said his experience with DNR water quality programming for the Raccoon River watershed has shown him how effective they are at finding the source of pollution and working collaborative with all stakeholders, including landowners and IDALS, to design solutions.

      The spokesperson for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement pointed out that the committee was in possession of a letter from the federal EPA which praised the DNR for their management of the primary water quality program targeted for the move—Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. The EPA letter also cautioned that moving the program would cause inefficiencies and lessen the effectiveness of Iowa's nonpoint source program. He also stated that the only state in the nation to have put their department of agriculture in charge of that water quality program is Tennessee, whose program is ranked 25th in the nation for efficiency, whereas Iowa's program at the DNR is ranked 9th in the nation.

      Duane Sands, representing the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, emphasized that regardless of good intentions, if water quality programs are transferred to IDALS, the appearance will be that the move is for political reasons because IDALS is headed by an elected official whose election is dependent on the Farm Lobby.

      Chuck Gipp, the director of IDALS, said his department should have the water quality programs because it has expertise in working with farmers and has had success in Iowa when it comes to "soil and water conservation."

      Marty Schwager, a state policy advisor for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, claimed the bill would improve efficiency and water quality, but did not offer any evidence or explanation to support these claims.

      Senator Black thanked everyone for their comments and noted that the bill was still under construction.

      We will continue to keep you updated on this bill. If you have not yet sent an email to your Senator, asking him to vote no on SF 500, please do so. And please encourage your friends to do so as well.

      Thank you!

      Lynn Laws

      Communications Director

      Iowa Environmental Council