Tag Archives: DNR

A historic victory for REAP: What happened, what comes next?

Council Executive Director Ralph Rosenberg, center, addresses the assembled crowd at Environmental Lobby Day, March 18.

Nearly 150 Iowans participated in a clean water and conservation statehouse day held on March 18 with $25 million for REAP ranked high on the list of priorities.

The last day of April brought exciting news to Iowa’s conservation community as a sequence of bills adopted by the general assembly appropriated a record $25 million to Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program.  In a flurry of activity leading up to adjournment of the 85th General Assembly, the final vote on REAP funding did not take place until after 3:00 a.m. on May 1.

This is the first time in 25 years REAP has been “fully funded” by the Iowa legislature, meaning approved funds meet or exceed the authorized level, currently $20 million.  In all, funding approved will come from three sources:

  • $16 million through HF2458, the appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Department of Natural Resources.  This money comes from Iowa’s Environment First Fund.  It is noteworthy that controversial proposals in this bill to violate the spirit of the REAP funding formula and divert funds from the open spaces account were removed from the final bill.
  • $4 million through SF2349, appropriations from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
  • $5 million through SF2363, a bill making various one-time appropriations to a variety of programs, including REAP and several other conservation programs.

All three of these bills will require the Governor’s signature for $25 million in REAP funding to become law.  The Governor will have approximately 30 days to act on each bill, and appropriations bills are usually subject to strong review by the Governor’s office prior to being signed.

In addition to leadership shown by numerous conservation-minded legislators, Iowa’s REAP Program is supported by approximately 37,000 Iowans who have purchased natural resource license plates.  Last year and this year, hundreds of Iowans took part in a public participation process to make recommendations for the program’s future.

In March, the Iowa Environmental Council and Iowa REAP Alliance partnered with over 30 organizations to host a clean water and conservation rally at the statehouse.  An untold number of Iowans, through conservation organizations or acting independently, spoke out in favor of providing the program this historic funding level.

Thank you to all Iowans who spoke out to help make this progress.  We do know the work of protecting clean water and a healthy environment is not finished.  Together, we will continue to push for similar funding of REAP year after year.

Editor’s note:  Many environmental issues, including controversial provisions concerning confidentiality of water quality data in Iowa’s pollution reduction efforts, have seen action in the closing hours of the legislative session.  The Council will continue to summarize legislative action on a variety of issues in the coming days.

Important public participation opportunities approaching for key Iowa conservation program

The REAP logo with the text "It's time: Fully Fund REAP!"

The Iowa Environmental Council strongly supports providing full funding to the REAP program.

The Iowa Environmental Council is a strong supporter of REAP and is a member of the Iowa REAP Alliance, a coalition of organizations who support the program.  The following is from a press release by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The public will have a chance to shape the future of Iowa’s conservation and outdoor recreation at any of the 18 Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) assemblies this fall.

REAP is a program that provides grants for and encourages enhancing and protecting Iowa’s natural and cultural resources. The assemblies will show local impacts of REAP.

“We get the opportunity to go out to the public to talk about REAP’s local impact,” said Tammie Krausman, REAP coordinator.

The assemblies will also allow attendees to voice ideas for changes and modifications to REAP and its programs.

“People who are passionate about conservation and outdoor recreation should get involved to make decisions on what’s happening locally,” said Krausman.

The assemblies will also allow participants to elect five members for REAP Congress. REAP Congress will meet Jan. 4 at the state capitol to talk about a variety of conservation topics such as soil conservation, water quality and outdoor recreation.

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Late summer is peak season for harmful algae, Iowans encouraged to stay safe at area lakes

Update (8/5/2013):  The Council is maintaining a list of algae-related swimming advisories on our website.

Big Creek Lake was one of several Iowa lakes were public advisories concerning algae blooms were issued in summer 2012.

Big Creek Lake was one of several Iowa lakes were public advisories concerning algae blooms were issued in summer 2012.

Ensuring a safe, enjoyable visit to Iowa lakes this summer means keeping track of water conditions and being aware of potentially harmful algae blooms.

Algae, which are tiny aquatic plants, are abundant in many Iowa lakes because Iowa’s waters frequently have high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous.  In the late summer, when conditions turn hot and sunny, algae growth can increase dramatically, or “bloom,” threatening recreation and causing public health concerns.

“We are especially concerned about algae blooms this year because high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in runoff from farmland reached Iowa’s waters this spring and early summer,” said Susan Heathcote, the Council’s water program director.  “Now, the sunny and hot conditions in late summer could spur rapid, widespread algae growth.”

Image shows a thick mat of green algae with the text "Let's clean this up!"Algae blooms are a nuisance, resulting in green, murky water and visible surface scum.  However, certain forms of blue green algae can produce toxins that can make people sick and have been documented to kill dogs, livestock, and other animals. Laboratory analysis is needed to determine whether toxins are present, so Iowans should use caution around any algae bloom they encounter.

“Harmful algae blooms can emerge quickly, and they may affect different parts of a lake differently,” Heathcote said.  “At any lake, visitors should rely on their own judgment in addition to posted advisories.  Avoid bright blue or green colored water, thick scums that look like spilled paint, or areas that smell bad.”

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, health impacts of blue-green algae exposure can occur through swimming, drinking, or breathing airborne toxins from affected areas.  Symptoms include breathing difficulties and skin rash, and children are at greater risk than adults.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) monitors beach safety at 39 state-owned beaches with once-weekly water testing.  Iowans planning to visit a state-owned beach can call a DNR hotline, (319) 353-2613, to hear weekly beach water quality monitoring information.

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Facing clean water risk from harmful manure spills, Iowa should not retreat from oversight duty

Two fish in an Iowa waterway died during a manure spill.

Manure spills can wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems. According to the Council’s analysis, illegal manure spills killed more than 1.2 million fish in Iowa in the last ten years.

News broke recently that Governor Branstad has weighed in on a continuing dialogue between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about whether Iowa is adequately protecting its rivers and lakes from harmful manure spills.

In documents released by the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and the Environmental Integrity Project, the governor expressed reluctance over a draft EPA plan calling for Iowa to verify that livestock operations are not putting local waters at risk.

The Iowa Environmental Council believes that given the harmful effects manure spills have had on Iowa waters, additional protections and oversight are needed.

Last year, the Council analyzed public records about manure spills over the last decade and found spills from livestock operations remain a major threat to water quality and aquatic life.  We identified 262 manure spills that reached Iowa waterways between 2001 and 2011, 42% of which did not result in a documented monetary penalty assessed by DNR.  Fish kills were documented in approximately one-third of spill cases, and DNR estimates revealed at least 1.2 million fish died as a result of these manure spills.

Iowans expect state government to fulfill its responsibilities for providing water that is safe for drinking, recreation, and aquatic life.  Our analysis of manure spills, EPA’s own report on DNR’s practices, and concerns expressed by many Iowans in comments to state government or in the media demonstrate that today, that responsibility is not being met.

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Have you seen the spring “Clean Water Starts with Us?


By APRIL SIGMUND, Council communications intern

Clean Water Starts with Us, an e-newsletter produced for watershed coordinators and those interested in improving water quality in their communities, has released its quarterly edition.

One article in the newsletter highlights a study conducted by Iowa State University on sediment deposits in Iowa’s lakes and rivers. The study shows that despite soil conservation efforts across Iowa, sediment deposit growth is accelerating at the bottom of Iowa’s lakes (p. 3).

Results of this study have its authors concerned that the increase in soil buildup could cause damage to wildlife habitats and other problems.

Also featured in the latest edition–a new resource available for communities engaging in watershed improvement projects. Iowa Learning Farms has produced “Watershed-based Community Assessments,” a toolkit containing steps communities should take to successfully complete a water quality improvement project. The toolkit focuses around involving thoughts and opinions of local watershed residents when carrying out a project.

Download and read the Clean Water Starts With Us spring edition here.

Clean Water Starts With Us is a quarterly electronic newsletter from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship – Division of Soil Conservation (DSC) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).