news

Cedar Rapids

The Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids is expected to crest Monday at 24 feet. That’s seven feet lower than in 2008 when floodwaters ravaged the city’s downtown. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett says that forecast could change.

“We’re at the mercy of the river, we’ll be able do an adequate job of keeping most of the water in the banks of the river at 22 feet, so 24 is really go to be challenging for us and we just hope it doesn’t get any worse,” he says.

submitted photo

Ames is among the central Iowa communities recovering from heavy rains late Thursday night.

Assistant city manager Brian Phillips says parts of Ames received five inches of rain, much of it falling in about an hour.  And he says at least two manhole covers disappeared in the deluge.

"If there's a storm sewer that has a very large slug of water going through it, that can compress the air underneath the manhole cover," Phillips says, "and that compression pushes upward [and] can pop the manhole cover off."

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Farming in the fertile Midwest is tied to an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But scientists are studying new ways to lessen the Midwest's environmental impact and improve water quality.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts the so-called "dead zone," an area of sea without enough oxygen to support most marine life, to grow larger than the size of Connecticut, or roughly 6,000 square miles.  

Flickr / Memphis CVB

Currently 50,000 Latinos in Iowa are registered to vote, according to Iowa’s League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

The organization is intensifying voter outreach in Iowa, as it wants to increase Latino registration by as many as 10,000 people. LULAC is attending all Latino festivals in Iowa, including one this weekend in Des Moines.  It's also holding community events this month and early October. 

Photo courtesy Brandon Pollock, Waterloo Courier

Updated at 10:15pm Thursday.

Sandbagging continues in communities along the Shell Rock and Cedar Rivers in northeast Iowa  after portions of Butler and Floyd county were hit with as much as a foot of rain last night. To the southeast, people in Cedar Rapids have begun building sandbag levees to protect an area devastated in 2008.

In Butler County, Sheriff Jason Johnson says volunteers who want to assist with cleanup are welcome, but sightseers are not.

Sarah Boden/IPR File

Legal challenges so far have not been an effective tool in the fight to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa. But pipeline opponents say they have a new strategy.

The plan is for teams of about five protesters to deploy all along the pipeline route to block equipment and vehicles. Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa says these groups are called Bold Action Teams, or BATs.

A BAT will function autonomously, deciding as a group when to peacefully demonstrate. Right now only 30 or so people have joined a BAT team, but that number is expected to grow.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Standing on a platform above the eastern bank of the Missouri River at the Kansas City, Missouri, Water Services intake plant is like being on the deck of a large ship.

Electric turbines create a vibration along the blue railing, where David Greene, laboratory manager for Kansas City Water Services, looks out across the river. Water the color of chocolate milk is sucked up and forced through screens below, picking up all the debris the river carries downstream.  

Sarah Boden/IPR File

A staffer from Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign is headed to prison for his role in a conspiracy that falsified Federal Election Commission reports. Unlike his two co-defendants who only got probation, Dimitri Kesari will serve three months behind bars.

At the sentencing hearing, federal Judge John Jarvey described Ron Paul's former deputy campaign manager as the scheme's "architect.” He noted that Kesari went to considerable lengths to conceal payments to a state senator in exchange for him leaving the Michele Bachmann campaign and endorsing Ron Paul. 

Dean Borg/IPR

Results from a sexual violence survey of University of Iowa students are guiding administrators in strengthening an anti-violence plan for the Iowa City campus.

Although fewer than ten-percent of the UI’s enrollment responded to the Speak Out Iowa survey in Fall, 2015, administrators say they’re using the results to engage the campus community in creating a safer environment.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Supporters and opponents of several proposed mergers among agricultural seed and chemical companies are making their case to lawmakers in Washington.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to, as committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grasley (R-Iowa) put it, get everything out on the table. Grassley says public testimony can raise concerns the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission may need to consider as they evaluate the proposed new pairings.

Amy Mayer/IPR

On a gray day, just as the rain begins to fall, Roger Zylstra stops his red GMC Sierra pick-up truck on the side of the road and hops down into a ditch in Jasper County, Iowa. It takes two such stops before he unearths amid the tall weeds and grasses what he’s looking for.

"Here is one of the tiles," he says, pointing to a pipe about six or eight inches in diameter. Water trickles from it into a culvert that runs under the road after flowing through a network of underground drainage lines below his farm field. "That's where it outlets."

Sarah Boden/IPR

Two staffers from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign were sentenced Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Des Moines. Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton and Campaign Manger John Tate will each serve two years of probation and pay a $10,000 fine.

In May the men and a third staffer, Deputy Campaign Manger Demitri Kesari, were convicted of conspiring to create and submit false campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission. 

Tate, Benton and their wives appeared emotional and relieved upon hearing the sentences.

Clay Masters / IPR

Many Republican leaders in swing states are split or lukewarm on supporting their nominee for president. Not so in Iowa where Republicans have taken over many of the state’s top state and federal elected posts. All of the state’s top elected Republicans have announced they are supporting Donald Trump for president, and the Republican National Committee has made Iowa one of its priorities in November’s election.

Brian Seifferlein/Harvest Public Media

Living in the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska means understanding that the water in your well may contain high levels of nitrates and may not be safe to drink.

"When our first son was born in 1980, we actually put a distiller in for our drinking water here in the house," says Ken Seim, who lives in the Platte Valley near the town of Chapman, Nebraska. "And at that time our water level was 12 parts per million."

Sarah Boden/IPR

While stumping this afternoon in Mason City, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told supporters, “It was a weekend of terrorist attacks." The Republican vice presidential nominee was referencing bombs planted in New York and New Jersey, and the stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall.

While addressing roughly 300 people at Music Man Square, Pence said America needs a president who knows the country is at war with what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

The Democratic candidate for vice president is reaching out to students and other voters in Iowa.

Iowa State University student Eric Spies introduced Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who said he was making his first stop in Iowa since Hillary Clinton chose him as her running mate. Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, also spoke to the crowd of a couple hundred people, many of them students, at the Memorial Union on the Iowa State campus in Ames. 

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Contaminated drinking water isn't just a problem for Flint, Michigan. Many towns and cities across the Midwest and Great Plains face pollution seeping into their water supplies. A big part of the problem: farming and ranching.

WIKICOMMONS / Gage Skidmore & U.S. Congress

The Vice Presidential nominees for both major parties -- Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic Virginia Senator Tim Kaine --  are in Iowa this afternoon. During the caucuses, Iowa gets plenty of attention, but high profile visits are less common during the general election. 

Donna Hoffman heads the Political Science Department at the University of Northern Iowa. She says because Iowa is a swing state, it’s still playing an important role in the presidential contest.

Michael Leland/IPR

People opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline have turned more than 33,000 petition signatures over to the U-S Department of Justice office in Des Moines. 

They want the department to review all permits that allow pipeline construction.

“We call upon President Obama to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers rejects the remaining permits in North Dakota and Iowa,” said Ross Grooters, member of the group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.  “Furthermore, the construction should be halted not just the 20 miles either side of Lake Oahe, but along the pipeline’s entire path.”

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

The City of Des Moines’s water utility is trying to sue 10 drainage districts in northwest Iowa in federal court, accusing the districts of polluting the Raccoon River. But first, Des Moines Water Works must convince the state Supreme Court that drainage districts can be held liable.

The drainage districts assert that for over a century, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that they can’t be sued for a civil wrong due to their limited authority. Attorney Michael Reck told the court during oral arguments Wednesday that it should stand by its previous rulings.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

St. Louis-based Monsanto, a world agribusiness leader, has agreed to be acquired by the German company Bayer. Bayer will pay $57 billion dollars, or $128 per share, in a deal that has been in the works since last spring.

Two other mergers are underway in the industry, with Dow set to combine with DuPont (already the owner of Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer) and ChemChina planning to buy the Swiss company Syngenta.

CLAY MASTERS/IPR FILE

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Corn Growers Association are offering to pay the legal costs in a lawsuit that names three northwest Iowa counties.  Des Moines Water Works alleges that farm runoff from drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties has caused exceedingly high nitrate levels in the city's water supply. 

Craig Hill is president of the Farm Bureau. He says the counties have been unfairly singled out in the Water Works lawsuit.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

 

In an effort to turn away from chemical pesticides, which have the potential to damage the environment, some farmers are looking in a new direction in the age-old, quiet struggle on farm fields of farmers versus pests. They're warding off intruding insects and noxious weeds with bugs and chickens.

Flickr / Leonieke Aalders

The Iowa State Bar Association is recommending that voters retain all 63 Iowa judges and the three state supreme court justices who are facing judicial retention elections this November. The ISBA is basing this recommendation on the 2016 Judicial Performance Review survey. 

Dean Borg/IPR

Linn County’s minimum wage increases to $8.25 an hour on January 1, and a dollar-an-hour more on each of the following two New Year’s Days. But municipalities may not follow, including Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city.

On a 4-1 vote, Linn’s Board of Supervisors approved the third reading of the ordinance incrementally raising the wage floor to three dollars above current Iowa law by 2019.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Attorney General Office argued Friday at the state Supreme Court that justices should overturn a ruling from six years ago. 

In Iowa, when someone is arrested, law enforcement have 45 days to press charges. Back in December 2010, the court ruled six-to-one in State v. Wing, that when a person reasonably believes they are under arrest, law enforcement must still adhere to the 45-day deadline. That's even if an individual isn't actually under arrest. 

Flickr / Michael Jenkins

As fall hunting seasons approach, sportsmen and women will be able spread out more due to a USDA grant that incentivizes Iowa landowners to put private property into conservation. The Iowa Habitat and Access Program, or IHAP, pays people to improve natural habitat on their properties. In exchange, they allow the public the hunt on their lands.

Dean Borg/IPR

Fall enrollment at Iowa State University’s is up 1.9 percent over last fall’s record.  With 36,660 students this year, ISU is again the largest of the state’s three public universities. 

The University of Iowa is reporting enrollment of 33,334 this fall, also up from last year’s figure. 

At the University of Northern Iowa, total enrollment for the fall semester at 11,905 -- 95 short of its goal of 12,000 students.  This includes 2,000 freshmen, the largest UNI freshman class since 2008.

Iowa Women's Archives, Shirley Briggs Papers

The University of Iowa is proposing naming a new residence hall in honor of an African American graduate who couldn’t live in the dorms because she is black.

Elizabeth Catlett received a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the UI in 1940.

While attending as a graduate student, Catlett lived off campus.   The UI’s dormitories weren’t open to African American students until Betty Jean Arnett desegregated Currier Hall in 1945.

Catlett went on to be a renowned artist, and now supports a scholarship for African American or Latino students majoring in printmaking.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

It was déjà vu at the Iowa Supreme Court, which held the first oral arguments of its 2016-17 term today. Justices heard a drunken-boating case for the second time as a result of a U.S Supreme Court ruling from June.

That federal ruling found that law enforcement can arrest drivers who don't submit to breathalyzer tests, but also determined blood tests to be unconstitutional. The Iowa case concerns breath-sobriety testing and drunken boating.

Pages