Lots of Questions for Branstad Regarding Water Quality

Water quality monitoring and other water programs at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources–some federally mandated–are meant to protect the public health.  Yet a proposal to transfer several of these programs to the Department of Agriculture, say legislators, comes from Governor Branstad and is about making the programs “more efficient.”  How will these programs actually be more efficient if operated by IDALS? No one, who understands the actual operations of each program, seems to know.

With the potential public health impact, where are the studies that show that, unlike every other state in the nation, Iowa's water programs will be run “more efficiently” AND still be protective of public health if overseen by an elected official whose mission is “Advancing Iowa's Agricultural Interests,” when many of Iowa's agricultural groups have historically and actively lobbied against water quality protections?

Bill numbers are currently being assigned to these study bills, which passed out of Senate and House Committees last week. 

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House Bills Would Give IDALS Responsibility of Protecting Iowa's Water Quality

Governor Branstad and legislators are considering transferring Section 319/Clean Water Act compliance functions, water monitoring and other water quality protection programs from the DNR to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).  The 319 section of the Clean Water Act deals with non-point source pollution.  Agricultural practices are the primary source of non-point source pollution in Iowa. 

Secretary Northey and his department are very capable and trusted advocates for Iowa’s agricultural economy.  But the primary mission and priorities of his department are not about protecting water quality.  If transferred to IDALS, water quality would take a back seat to agricultural economic priorities.  Given the historical resistance to water quality restrictions by some groups representing agriculture, moving our water protection programs to IDALS could put politics before sound science. 

Also important to note is that Section 319 deals with urban sources of non-point pollution and IDALS does not have experience or expertise in addressing urban stormwater management issues.  Transfer of this responsibility will put protection of water quality for all Iowans at risk.

You can find an action alert and a sample message to send to Gov. Branstad and legislators at http://capwiz.com/iaenvironment/home/  

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: I posted background information from Iowa Rivers Revival and the Iowa Environmental Council after the jump.

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