Chuck Isenhart Addresses Iowa Clean Water Strategy

Raccoon River

Raccoon River

On Wednesday, Aug. 3, State Rep. Chuck Isenhart issued a press release addressing the need for Iowa government to update the state’s clean water strategy.

Following a visit to Louisiana, where he consulted with stakeholders regarding Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, Isenhart wrote a letter to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey urging the Water Resources Coordinating Council to adopt a 20 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus load. Read his July 17 letter here.

Isenhart is ranking member of the House Environmental Protection Committee and a leading voice for the environment and on energy issues in the Iowa legislature. Following is his press release in its entirety.

Time to update state clean water strategy

In light of Gov. Terry Branstad’s renewed call for more funding for water quality initiatives, State Rep. Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque) has asked the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to update Iowa’s nutrient reduction strategy to establish performance goals to be achieved with any new money.

In a letter to the Water Resources Coordinating Council — chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey — Isenhart has encouraged the body of state and federal officials to recommend that Iowa adopt the interim milestones endorsed by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force

Northey is co-chair of that task force. Isenhart is ranking member on the House Environmental Protection Committee and liaison to the state Watershed Planning Advisory Council.

The Gulf task force’s 2015 report to Congress called for a 20 percent nitrogen and phosphorus load reduction at the watershed scale by the year 2025.

“After three years of demonstration projects, we know what works,” Isenhart said. “Time to move to the implementation stage and scale up our efforts with widespread adoption of effective pollution-reduction practices. But first we owe it to Iowa citizens to show them how we will be accountable and what their money will buy: How clean will the water be and when will it happen.”

Isenhart noted that, while the Gulf task force is looking for documented results by 2025, Governor Branstad’s funding plan doesn’t kick in until 2029. “That is a glaring oversight, hopefully not intentional,” he said.

During the last legislative session, Isenhart and State Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) offered an “Iowa Clean Water Partnership Plan,” based on their participation in the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Iowa’s Soil and Water Future Task Force.

If adopted, the plan would create a clean water trust fund comprised of both public and private monies contributed by farm producers through water quality checkoff programs. The legislators plan to improve and re-introduce the bill in 2017.

“In the meantime, we will continue to educate and learn from Iowans during the upcoming election campaign season,” Isenhart continued. “We want to know if we are on the right track. We also want to know if Iowa voters still want us to raise the sales tax by 3/8 cent to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust fund they put in the Constitution with a 2010 referendum.

“If Iowans still want it — and surveys indicate that they do — that would bring the greatest, most consistent funding that a long-term enterprise like this requires,” he said.

This week, Isenhart is attending the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Chicago. He serves on NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee.

Isenhart has offered an amendment to the NCSL water policy directive that would prioritize nitrogen and phosphorus pollution as a water quality improvement objective in the Mississippi River basin and “wherever such pollution from pervasive point and non-point sources creates serious hypoxic conditions in waters of economic, ecological and/or recreational significance.”

The proposal also calls on the federal government to “foster and assist in the financing and support of working groups of state legislators within major watersheds where water pollution is a multi-state responsibility.”

Such working groups or compacts could be formed to “coordinate the development of strategies, policies, statutes, regulations and spending priorities for the attainment of clean water, including goals, timelines and accountability for performance,” Isenhart explained. “Right now, many state legislatures are AWOL when it comes to clean water. We need to get in the boat.”

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