Action: Urge the DNR to adopt Antidegradation Rules

The Iowa Environmental Council sent out this message today, asking citizens to weigh in with the Department of Natural Resources on the need to implement Antidegradation Rules.

Most people are not aware that Iowa has never implemented such rules, even though the federal Clean Water Act requires it.

The IEC's message includes more background information as well as a sample letter you can e-mail to the appropriate person at the DNR.

As always, it's better if you can put such written communications in your own words rather than copying and pasting the sample text.

Iowa lakes, rivers and streams:

Waste receptacles or natural resources belonging to the people of Iowa?

In Iowa, as in other states, we have a state agency which grants wastewater discharge permits to regulated businesses, industries and municipalities, giving them permission to dump pollution in our rivers and streams. State-established water quality standards and the current condition of the water at the point of pollution discharge determine how much pollution will be allowed to be discharged.

Water quality standards, as currently implemented in Iowa, determine the maximum amount of pollution allowed before the water becomes so polluted that the public health or health of aquatic life is threatened. Iowa Water quality "standards" are lines that pollutant levels cannot cross without harming drinking water, people who swim in the water, people who eat the fish, etc.

It is important that Iowans realize that Iowa's current water quality standards are not actually preserving good water quality in Iowa, but, in fact, are allowing our waters to border on the brink of disgust. That's why Antidegradation Rules are so important.

Antidegradation Rules are required by the federal Clean Water Act, but have never been implemented in Iowa. In essence, these rules ensure that no new pollution is allowed which would lower the water quality below its current level, unless that new pollution is determined to be necessary (no reasonable alternative exists) and it is a byproduct of something important for the economic and social development in the community. Area citizens must decide if the public benefits of the project justify the loss of water quality.

Because of our state's failure to implement Antidegradation Rules, industries, businesses and municipalities in Iowa may have the impression that our rivers, streams and lakes are waste receptacles. They may believe that they have a right to dump pollution into these "waste receptacles" until the line-the water quality standard-is crossed. And, in practice, that is exactly the right they have been granted if they hold an Iowa permit to discharge pollution.

But Iowa waters belong to the citizens of Iowa. Under the federal Clean Water Act, citizens have the legal right to demand that our state preserve good water quality in our lakes, rivers and streams. Iowa citizens have the right to demand that we wait no longer to implement Antidegradation Rules in Iowa.

Last October the Iowa Environmental Council petitioned the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to implement antidegradation rules in Iowa. As a result of that petition, the state is now moving forward to develop Antidegradation Rules that will assure that current water quality will be maintained wherever possible. Formal rulemaking is expected to begin in July 2008 and to be finalized in early 2009. But stakeholder meetings have already begun.

Iowans value their lakes, streams and rivers for recreation and drinking water. With the Iowa Department of Natural Resources finally beginning the process of making Antidegradation Rules, many Iowans are speaking out to ensure that the water quality in their favorite lake, stream or river will be preserved. Please consider personalizing and sending the letter below...

Lori McDaniel

Supervisor, Water Quality Bureau

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

502 East 9th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319-0034

Lori.McDaniel AT dnr.iowa.gov

RE: Antidegradation Rules

Dear Ms. McDaniel,

I am writing to express my support for strong antidegradation rules which protect all of Iowa's high quality waters.  It is important that we do not allow further degradation of these precious resources.

Please add me to your email list to receive information as the rules move forward.  I'm especially interested in dates scheduled for public comment.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely, (end of letter)

UPDATE: Some people I spoke with this afternoon were confused by this message and thought it came from Lori McDaniel.

To be clear, the message about water quality in Iowa, and the need for Antidegradation Rules, came from the Iowa Environmental Council.

Lori McDaniel is the person at DNR to whom written comments should be addressed.

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