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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% nitrogen and phosphorus load reduction at the watershed scale by the year 2025.

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.

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.”

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