Iowans want action, not excuses

Today, the Water Resources and Coordinating Council (WRCC), which exists to “preserve and protect Iowa’s water resources, and to coordinate the management of those resources in a sustainable and fiscally responsible manner,” held its bi-monthly meeting.

For the past year, the Iowa Environmental Council has attended these meetings (as it did today) and called upon the Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC) to set a timeline and local goals to reach the 45% statewide reduction goal set forth in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS). Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has repeatedly failed to take a vote, or even attempt to gain consensus among WRCC members, to do so. Today was no different. Unfortunately refusing to acknowledge or address the issue does not cause it to cease to exist.

If the WRCC and the state’s leaders had listened to Iowans that raised questions about the all-voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy and taken meaningful action to address concerns about the lack of local goals, timelines, consistent water quality monitoring, transparency and sustainable funding, perhaps Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) wouldn’t have found it necessary to file intent of a lawsuit against three counties in northern Iowa.

We can blame nature, high rainfall or any other variety of factors, but this response won’t solve the problem. Iowans want to see actions, not excuses. Excuses don’t solve problems. The NRS is a voluntary strategy, and no watersheds in Sac, Calhoun of Buena Vista counties volunteered, so no WQI watershed projects have been proposed. How does the NRS plan to address water quality issues in these areas and others like them? These are questions the public wants and deserves to have answered.

The Iowa Environmental Council will continue to give voice to Iowan’s concerns about the state’s plan to reduce pollution in our lakes and rivers threatening safe drinking water and outdoor recreation, and call upon the WRCC to take the steps necessary to ensure we are making meaningful, scientifically-verifiable progress on achieving clean water in Iowa.

Under the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, Voluntary = Optional

This week, Des Moines Water Works’ Board of Trustees voted unanimously to issue a notice of intent to sue the Board of Supervisors in Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun Counties “in their role as governing authority for 10 drainage districts that are discharging pollutants into the Raccoon River,” which threaten Des Moines’ drinking water.  

A public comment period was held at Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting. Below, Agricultural Policy Specialist Jennifer Terry shares some thoughts and observations from the meeting and what will be necessary to make meaningful progress on achieving clean water in Iowa.

I have no position for or against the lawsuit being instigated by DMWW — I have not read the filing; therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to take a position on the suit. But, I can tell you one thing:

If the state’s leaders had listened to Iowans that raised questions about the all-voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy and taken meaningful action to address concerns about the lack of local goals, timelines, transparency and sustainable funding, perhaps Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) wouldn’t have found it necessary to file intent of a lawsuit against three counties in northern Iowa.

It’s easy to see why so many Iowans, including those who spoke during the public comment period at Thursday’s DMWW board meeting, have lost faith in  the ability and sincere intent of those charged with reducing nitrogen and phosphorus in our waterways’ to get the job done. They’re tired of being told to be patient and give the Nutrient Reduction Strategy time to work while receiving no indication of when the state aims to reach the 45% statewide reduction goal as recommended by the recent Inspector General’s report to the EPA.

Iowa’s leaders have failed to require water quality testing at all state-funded Nutrient Reduction Strategy project sites in order to gather scientifically-verifiable evidence that nitrogen and phosphorus are being reduced in Iowa’s waters. In fact, amazingly, some agricultural sectors actively oppose this testing.

Yes, there are many responsible Iowa farmers who are implementing conservation practices on their land, and I am very fortunate to have met many of them. These farmers are true stewards of the land and are working earnestly and aggressively to improve soil health, test nitrates, install buffers and wetlands. Unfortunately, there are thousands of others who aren’t doing any of those things. Conservation is simply optional for most Iowa farmers. The evidence is there in reports of livestock manure runoff and fish kills, washed-out gullies, corn planted on stream banks and into roadside ditches. It’s unthinkable that in 2015 there are still farmers practicing this behavior. How long will it take to get more farmers on board? 10 years? 20 years? 75 years?

If we’re serious about addressing water quality in our state, we must call upon policymakers to:
1.    Support sustained, stable funding, for example, Iowa’s Land and Water Legacy trust fund.
2.    Set a timeline with benchmarks for the 45% statewide reduction.
3.    Require water quality testing at all state-funded Nutrient Reduction Strategy projects and make the aggregated data available to the public.

All over the state, people from all walks of life are demanding credible, scientifically-verifiable proof that nitrogen and phosphorus are being reduced in our waterways. Now, our state’s leaders need to give Iowans proof they are serious about getting the job done.

Council Seeks Development Director

Development Director
Des Moines, IA
Status: Permanent, full-time salaried position
Reports to: Executive Director


The development director is responsible for creating and fulfilling annual plans to meet the Council’s funding needs with a primary focus of individual giving and major gifts, and secondarily working on grants and events.

The director is responsible for participating in and coordinating all individual giving including major donor solicitations, membership retention and development, and direct mail. The director will be expected to improve the rate of retention, identify new donors, and increase donations. The director is responsible for establishment of a legacy or planned giving fund. The director works closely with program staff to help prepare compelling grant proposals and reports and researching grant opportunities. The director is primarily responsible for tracking and reporting of all grants and gifts in a timely and accurate manner. This position will oversee special events and is responsible for coordinating solicitations of businesses that support our Annual Conference and other projects.


• Develop and manage individual giving and major donor programs including cultivation and solicitations.
• Manage the direct mail campaign to increase and retain individual, cooperator and organizational memberships, including writing and overseeing production of member recruitment mailings, renewal mailings, regular special appeals and acquisition mailings.
• Coordinate, plan and implement organizational development strategies with board members, staff and development committee
• Manage a fall campaign utilizing volunteers to meet individually with donors.
• Research and track foundation grant funding opportunities; in collaboration with program staff, write and edit proposals and reports; ensure deadlines are met and provide regular updates to board and foundations.
• Research and prospect for new grant opportunities to meet grant revenue budget goals.
• Major role in the planning and implementation of the Annual Conference and special events.
• Develop and implement a plan to expand business contributions generally
• Conduct analysis of membership recruitment and retention activities and plan future efforts
• In conjunction with communications, oversee management of IEC’s database system (DataBank)
• Work with executive director to develop revenue projections and track throughout the year.
• Serve as a backup for Communications in the use of action alerts, Twitter, Facebook and E-news announcements.
• Serve as a backup for gift processing including deposits, credit card charges, data entry and production of acknowledgments.


• Background (minimum 4 years) and successful track record in fundraising, particularly membership/donor recruitment and retention and secondarily, grant seeking and reporting.
• Ability to communicate strengths and needs of the Council and directly solicit gifts on an in-person basis.
• Communicating and writing in a clear and compelling fashion.
• Experience with leading event planning and organizing.
• Self-motivation and initiative.
• Ability to multi-task and coordinate several projects simultaneously while keeping track of the big picture. Must have superb organizational skills.
• Good interpersonal skills and flexibility.
• Able to travel and meet with a current or prospective donor and successfully develop a prospect and obtain a contribution.
• A passion for IEC’s mission. Enthusiasm for representing a dynamic organization.
• Knowledge and comfort level working with donor databases, spreadsheets and creation of merged documents.

• Familiarity with Iowa funding sources and regional sources of environmental, natural resources and energy funding.
• Experience securing corporate sponsorships and planning events.
• Experience working in a non-profit setting with a mission-driven staff and board.
• Knowledge of DataBank
• Bachelor’s degree in related field or equivalent experience.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Executive Director Ralph Rosenberg at Rosenberg [at] iaenvironment [dot] org. Applications will be accepted through Jan. 15, 2015 or until the position is filled.

Soil is the foundation of a healthy state

This post was written by Agricultural Policy Specialist Jennifer Terry

The Midwest is known for being one of the friendliest regions in the country, and for the most part, the reputation is well-deserved. It’s not uncommon for strangers to exchange pleasantries as they pass each other on the street, or to see someone lend a hand to a neighbor in need, and we should apply the same care and consideration to the resources we share, including our land and water.

Today is World Soil Day and the start of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization International Year of Soil. Both events celebrate soil and aim to raise awareness of the importance of healthy soils for food systems, agriculture and the environment.

If Iowans care about their communities (and I think we do), we should care about out watersheds, because a watershed is just that – a community. Urban or rural, everyone is a watershed neighbor, and protecting our soil is an important part of being a good watershed neighbor.

Healthy soil is quite literally the foundation of a healthy state, and in Iowa where a large percentage of our land is used for agriculture, healthy soil plays a huge role in improving our water quality. This in turn improves our health, environment and economy.

Healthy soil is capable of holding water longer, helping mitigate flooding in towns and farms downstream, and aiding communities in combating washed-out roads, bridges and a myriad of other flood-related problems.

Additionally, because of its ability to hold water, healthy soil helps prevent water from washing away down the watershed, carrying with it excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. According to Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy – which aims to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in our lakes and rivers – 92% of nutrient runoff is from agricultural land. This runoff causes toxic algae blooms in our state’s lakes and rivers that can make our water unsafe for drinking, swimming and outdoor recreation.

To effectively protect our soils and prevent agricultural runoff, Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy must include clear local goals, timelines and water quality testing to measure progress, as well as sustained funding not subject to the Governor’s veto. All elements it is currently lacking.

A farmer once told me “My farm isn’t Las Vegas; I know what happens here doesn’t stay here.” He’s right, and when we neglect soil health we all lose.

So today, as we celebrate the many benefits soil provides to our state, let’s engage in bold discussions about how we can work together to create meaningful, measurable solutions that improve soil health and water quality.

Iowans advocate for Clean Power Plan

This post was written by Climate/Energy Policy Specialist Cindy Lane

Monday marked the closing date for public comments on what is arguably the single most important action the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken to address climate change to date: The Clean Power Plan.

The Iowa Environmental Council joined thousands of Iowans and millions of Americans who submitted comments in support of the proposal, and included recommendations to further strengthen the proposal to result in a higher reduction of carbon pollution from Iowa’s power plants.

Proposed in June, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will combat climate change and its costly impacts on our health, environment and economy by requiring states to cut carbon pollution – a leading contributor to climate change – from their existing, fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants are our nation’s leading source of carbon pollution, but despite this fact, there are currently no federal standards limiting the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can emit.

The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will establish these necessary limits, and result in a 30% reduction in U.S. carbon pollution by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

Since 2012, EPA has received over 64,000 comments from Iowans and 8 million comments total in favor of the proposal, and widespread support for the plan is understandable. As currently proposed, the Clean Power Plan will result in estimated benefits of up to $95 billion per year by 2030, dramatically outweighing the plan’s projected costs ($7.3-8.8 billion per year in 2030).

The plan will also help to prevent the countless health threats posed by climate change (outlined in the Iowa Climate Statement 2014 and endorsed by 180 scientists, faculty and researchers from 38 Iowa colleges and universities) and help alleviate economic burdens from weather-related disasters. According to Iowa State University’s Climate Science Program, Iowan’s faced over $5.6 billion in economic losses from tornadoes, floods and damage to crops from 2008-2012 alone. The plan presents other economic opportunities for the state as well.

States can help meet their Clean Power Plan standards by adding more clean energy to their energy portfolios, such as wind.

Iowa already has a strong wind industry that stands ready to meet the potential increase in demand for renewables as a result of the proposed plan: According to AWEA, 15 facilities across Iowa manufacture wind turbine parts and the state’s wind industry employed 3,000-4,000 in 2013.

As we move into the New Year, the Council will continue its efforts to support the proposed Clean Power Plan by 1) urging EPA to finalize the rules by June 2015, 2) encouraging Iowa to begin preparing a strong state implementation plan that will detail how we will comply with the Clean Power Plan, and 3) promoting the growth of clean, renewable energy and expansion of energy efficiency measures.