Environment
4:32 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Branstad Unveils Water Pollution Strategy

The darker regions show watersheds with high levels of nitrogen pollution. The squiggly grey lines represent the 818 watersheds that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
Credit USGS

  A strategy on how Iowa will cut back farm and sewage treatment pollution released today by Governor Branstad’s office is being criticized for being too friendly to farmers. As Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters reports, its intent is to shrink a dead zone in the nation’s top commercial fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

Critics say the strategy would make Wastewater treatment and industrial plants make costly upgrades to cut pollution. Farmers would make upgrades voluntarily. It’s supposed to reduce harmful nutrients in Iowa waterways that wind up in the gulf. Governor Branstad says the strategy is about working together and not pointing fingers.

"Why is Iowa so much healthier and stronger than a lot of other states?" Branstad asked at his Monday press conference. "It’s because of the health and prosperity of agriculture. We don’t want to destroy the opportunity for farmers to make a living on the land. We also don’t want a lot of our cities to have to dramatically increase their property taxes."

A team of scientists at Iowa State University examined how landscape changes in farm fields help prevent nitrogen and phosphorous run off into rivers and streams.  Public can weigh in online between now and January 4th. Ralph Rosenberg, president of the Iowa Environmental Council, says that’s not enough time for the public to weigh in.

"I’m not saying anyone is deliberately doing it," Rosenberg said. "I’m just saying the consequence of having a 45 day period that covers Thanksgiving, that covers the holidays – Christmas, Hanuka, New Years – is really limiting."

Rosenberg has asked the DNR and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to give the public 90 days to weigh in.