Iowa Rivers Revival - 3rd River Congress

Iowa Rivers Revival
3rd River Congress
Saturday, January 8, 2011
1-5PM
Izaak Walton League
4343 George Flagg Pkwy, Des Moines
FREE
& open to anyone interested in attending
EXHIBIT: $100/table
RSVP: rlehman@iowarivers.org; 515-202-7720 (name, address, phone, e-mail, and river(s) of interest)

Each River Congress continues to build and broaden the base of Iowa’s river community and strengthen river policy influence. The most important aspect of the Congress is to develop a statewide river network-a force of river supporters who communicate with policy leaders about the importance of water quality and river conservation. We continue to hear from Iowa legislators and Iowans alike that there is no voice for Iowa’s rivers – with your help, we can to change that!

IRR has recently retained lobbying services for the 2011 session. We are excited to be able to provide representation for Iowa’s rivers on the hill and better inform you about river policy issues during the legislative session.

Congress participants will learn about the 2011 legislative landscape and river priorities, and how we can work together to achieve those goals. The program will also highlight and discuss the economic value of rivers, and the need, importance and opportunities to expand a statewide river coalition. In 2008 River Congress participants helped draft a vision for the River Bill of Rights, we would like to revisit those principles each year to be sure they continue to be the goals and objectives for Iowa’s river advocates.

River Congress Links: www.iowarivers.org
River Congress Agenda
River Bill of Rights 2011
Legislative Agenda River Congress

Sponsors: Des Moines Izaak Walton League and the Raccoon River Watershed Association

Please share this invitation – the outcomes from the River Congress should reflect a range of river perspectives and experiences from across the state: River Advocates • Conservationists & Environmentalists • Watershed Groups • Farmers • Anglers • Community Leaders • Hunters • Recreationists • Outdoor Outfitters • Students • Teachers • Wildlife Observers • Concerned Citizens-anyone interested in water quality and river stewardship.

Please RSVP. We will be providing district-watershed specific information for each participant. It will be very helpful to have participants RSVP in advance to help prepare this information. We will enter each participant that RSVPs in a drawing for a door prize.

Rosalyn Lehman
Executive Director
Iowa Rivers Revival
PO Box 72, Des Moines, IA 50301
515-202-7720
rlehman@iowarivers.org | www.iowarivers.org

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Group names Cedar River fifth most endangered in U.S.

For 25 years, American Rivers has released annual reports on “America’s Most Endangered Rivers.” Only one waterway in the Midwest made the group’s top ten list for 2010: Iowa’s Cedar River, which came in at number 5. American Rivers comments:

The Cedar River harbors globally rare plant communities, provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and is a popular destination for paddlers and anglers. However, outdated flood management and poor watershed planning are impacting public health and safety by causing pollution and increasing the risk of flood damage. The Army Corps of Engineers must prioritize lower cost, non-structural flood management solutions on the Cedar River. These natural solutions will help reduce flood damage, improve water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and provide recreational opportunities and economic benefits while saving taxpayer dollars.

Go here to download a factsheet with more information about the Cedar River and why it’s “endangered.”

Perry Beeman posted the full press release from American Rivers at the Des Moines Register’s blog. Excerpt:

“We have an opportunity to learn from the devastating floods of 1993 and 2008 and rebuild smarter and stronger. We need to incorporate non-structural, natural solutions that provide flood protection, improve water quality, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and provide recreational opportunities and economic benefits to local communities,” said Sean McMahon, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Iowa.

“It is time for Iowans to insist that state and federal flood protection policies work to reduce flood damage by moving people and structures out of harms way, allowing the flood plain to perform its natural function to absorb and slow the river’s flow during future floods,” said Susan Heathcote with Iowa Environmental Council.

“The newly-organized Cedar River Watershed Coalition has recognized the need to take a holistic approach to watershed management by reaching across city and county jurisdictions to take a whole watershed approach to flood mitigation and river restoration.  This innovative group of concerned individuals and communities is committed to working together to reduce the impacts of flooding in the watershed and to improve water quality in the Cedar River,” said Rosalyn Lehman with Iowa Rivers Revival.

By 2008, the Cedar River had had two 500-year floods within 15 years. Rain falls on a radically changed landscape: plowed fields have replaced tall grass prairies; streams and creeks have been straightened; 90 percent of wetlands have been destroyed; floodplains have been filled and developed; and flows have doubled in just the last half century. Even without factoring in possible effects of climate change, which would exacerbate the problems, the landscape changes will bring more frequent and severe floods. The communities along the Cedar River deserve better, 21st century flood protection solutions to ensure public safety and river health.

The Cedar River, a tributary to the Mississippi River, provides drinking water to more than 120,000 residents, and roughly 530,000 people live and work in the Cedar River watershed. The primary land use in the watershed is agriculture and the river is a popular place for boating and fishing. The river is home to globally rare plant communities and fish and wildlife, including two species of endangered mussels.

In response to the devastating floods of 2008, the Iowa legislature passed a bill in 2009 requiring the Water Resources Coordinating Council to draft recommendations on “a watershed management approach to reduce the adverse impact of future flooding on this state’s residents, businesses, communities, and soil and water quality.” The WRCC submitted those recommendations in November 2009.

Unfortunately, Iowa legislators proved unwilling during the 2010 session to take even baby steps on floodplain management. A bill much weaker than the WRCC recommendations passed the Iowa Senate but never made it out of subcommittee in the Iowa House. The League of Cities, among others, lobbied against the measure. But don’t worry, if any of those cities experience a catastrophic flood, their lobbyists will urge legislators to send plenty of state taxpayer money their way.

I would like to see more cities adopt Davenport’s model for co-existing with a river:

In a nation that spends billions annually on structural flood protection (and billions more when the levees fail) Davenport is the national model for a more cost effective and environmentally responsible approach. We are the largest city in the nation on a major river without a system of levees and pumps for “flood control”. We’ve never had them.  And we don’t want them. Instead of viewing the grand Mississippi as just another storm sewer, we treat it appropriately, with a broad floodplain in (99%) City ownership, now the focal point of our “River Vision” plan. The River Vision plan, developed in conjunction with our southern shore partner, Rock Island, Illinois, is the only bi-state riverfront brownfield redevelopment plan of its kind in the nation. Developed with the extraordinary public input of more than a thousand citizens, the plan is guiding the riverfront revitalization of the historic core of the Quad Cities, and has garnered the nation’s “Most Livable Small City” award from the US Conference of Mayors.  In the historic 2008 Iowa floods, Davenport outperformed every city in the state. We even continued to play baseball at our riverfront ballpark as it became an island in the river. In 2009, our unique approach to floodplain management merited review by the National Academy of Science.  A nine minute video of Davenport’s resilience through the 2008 floods is accessible online.

The University of Iowa’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, in cooperation with other groups, has organized a series of seminars on “The Anatomy of Iowa Floods: Preparing for the Future.” The first of the free seminar series took place in Des Moines in March. After the jump I’ve posted the schedule and agenda for future seminars in Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Waverly this month, and in Mason City and Ames in July.

If you care about protecting Iowa waterways, please consider joining any or all of the following groups: Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Rivers Revival, Nature Conservancy in Iowa, and the Sierra Club Iowa chapter.

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Obama in SE Iowa and other events coming up during the next two weeks

President Barack Obama is coming back to Iowa this Tuesday with stops scheduled in Fort Madison, Mount Pleasant and Ottumwa. More details on those and other events coming up during the next two weeks can be found after the jump.

The Republican Party of Iowa is organizing a “Stand Up 4 Freedom Rally” on Monday at 5:00 in Ottumwa’s Central Park.

Congratulations to everyone elected to the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee at the district conventions this weekend.

First district: Jean Pardee, Sue Frembgen, Michael Blackwell, Jerry Lynch, Bruce Clark and Jane Lawrence

Second district: Ebony Luensman, Judy Stevens, Melinda Jones, Norm Sterzenbach, Kory May and Al Bohanan

Third distict: Dori Rammelsberg-Dvorak, Mary Campos, Linda Olson, John McCormly, Bill Brauch and Glen Rammelsberg

Fourth district: Susan Seedorff-Keninger, Karen Pratte, Lois Jirgens, Chris Petersen, Tom Harrington and Don Ruby

Fifth district: Monica McCarthy, Penny Rosjford, Marcia Fulton, Tim Bottaro, Dennis Ryan and Dick Sokolowski

Consider this an open thread for discussing anything on your mind this weekend.

A British historian of Russia got caught hiding behind a pseudonym on Amazon in order to post nasty reviews of rival historians’ work while praising his own. One of the historians he trashed responded here. Fortunately, Bleeding Heartland has had few problems with sock-puppetry. Thanks to everyone who respects this community’s rules of engagement.

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Iowa Rivers Revival's 2nd River Congress: Iowans committed to river conservation

Saturday, January 23, 2010

1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Story County Conservation Board

56461 180th St, Ames, Iowa

No Cost

RSVP: Rosalyn Lehman, rlehman@iowarivers.org; 515-202-7720

Link for the AGENDA:  http://www.iowarivers.org/Link…

Iowa Rivers Revival will host a 2nd River Congress to continue to build upon the interest and success from last year’s Congress-over 70 people attended and identified key river concerns and priorities and created a River Bill of Rights:  http://www.iowarivers.org/Legi…

The purpose of the 2nd River Congress is to continue to expand the statewide network of river supporters who are willing to communicate with their legislators about the importance of water quality and river conservation, discuss current river issues and concerns, participate in a legislative discussion and a workshop on effective advocacy.  

We continue to hear from Iowa legislators and Iowans alike that there is no voice for Iowa’s rivers – with your help, we can to change that!  The River Congress if free and open to anyone interested in attending.

Please share this invitation – the outcomes from the River Congress should reflect a range of river perspectives and experiences from across the state:  River Advocates • Conservationists & Environmentalists • Watershed Groups • Farmers • Anglers • Hunters • Recreationists • Students • Teachers • Wildlife Observers • Concerned Citizens-anyone interested in water quality and river stewardship.

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Don't put a new road through the Des Moines River Greenbelt

John Wenck, an outreach coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources, had a good guest opinion column in Monday’s Des Moines Register about why building a new road through the Des Moines River Greenbelt is a bad idea.

This road project used to be called the “MLK extension,” because it would extend Martin Luther King Drive north through the river greenbelt. A group of environmental advocates and interested citizens helped defeat that proposal years ago.

Now it has been revived as the “Northwest 26th Street extension,” which is the Ankeny street that would be extended south through the greenbelt to connect with MLK on the Des Moines side.

A new name does nothing to lessen the impact of this road. A Sierra Club “sprawl report” from the fall of 2000 had this to say:

Tearing down urban highways has brought new life to neighborhoods long hemmed-in by the roads. Unfortunately, Des Moines seems to be heading in the opposite direction with the proposed extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. This project will put a highway in what is now an urban green space and flood-control zone.

The Des Moines River Valley is a unique urban green space that provides a variety of habitats for wildlife, plants and people. It is an important wintering ground for the bald eagle and ideal habitat for many species of migratory birds. This area also serves as a buffer between existing neighborhoods and the current interstate. Two bicycle trails run along the river and improve the transportation choices for Des Moines residents.

Building a highway through this area will clearly harm its value to wildlife, reduce the value of the land as a floodplain and make areas downstream more prone to flooding. The proposed extension will also encourage sprawl outside the city and add to the traffic and air pollution problems of the region. Middle- and low-income neighborhoods near the proposed route will suffer from more noise and air pollution.

Given that new highways draw more drivers onto the road, the parkway extension would do little to ease traffic. Rather than building a major new highway and destroying this open space, a smarter plan would enhance this urban green space and use public transportation to ease the area’s traffic congestion.

The last paragraph is crucial: this road project would do little to ease traffic. I am old enough to remember the debate over extending 100th St. in Clive over the Clive Greenbelt during the 1980s. That was supposed to solve a lot of traffic problems in the western suburbs, but it didn’t do the job. Instead, there has been more sprawling development and more traffic in the area.

The Des Moines River Greenbelt contains outstanding habitat for birds that are very sensitive to noise that would accompany a major road. We don’t have an abundance of riparian forests in central Iowa anymore and should preserve the ones that remain.

If you care about wildlife habitat and/or sound transportation policy, I encourage you to get involved with one or more of the organizations that are fighting the NW 26th St extension. They include the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Iowa, and Iowa Rivers Revival.

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