The Des Moines Register. July 8, 2015
Nitrate pollution is a statewide problem
Des Moines Water Works' lawsuit addresses issue in rural Iowa, too
The controversial lawsuit that pits the Des Moines Water Works against drainage districts in three Iowa counties is an unfortunate necessity.
Litigation is never an ideal way to resolve a dispute, but this particular lawsuit could actually force the state to address a growing problem many Iowa leaders refuse to even acknowledge: agriculture's contribution to high nitrate levels in our drinking water.
That said, the lawsuit has also had the undesirable effect of appearing to pit urban Iowa against rural Iowa — a divisive and destructive characterization that Gov. Terry Branstad has actually helped foster.
"Des Moines has declared war on rural Iowa," Branstad said after the Des Moines Water Works's governing board first decided to sue Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties due to their drainage districts that feed into the North Raccoon River. "Instead of filing a lawsuit, Des Moines should sit down with the farmers and people who want to do something about it." As the governor knows, wanting to do something is not the same thing as doing something. Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy includes several methods to reduce nitrate pollution, but it is voluntary, and there are no deadlines for the state to reach its alleged goal of a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous levels. It's not so much a "strategy" for action as it is a case study in wishful thinking.
And as Donnelle Eller's Des Moines Sunday Register story on July 5 explained, water quality is not an urban problem. It is an Iowa problem.
More than 60 Iowa cities and towns have struggled with high nitrate levels in their drinking water over the past five years. In fact, nitrate pollution affects not only Iowa's largest cities, such as Des Moines, but many of its smallest, including Woodbine, Griswold, Elliott and Manchester.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the water supplies of about 260 Iowa cities and towns are highly susceptible to contamination from nitrates and pollutants. That's about 30 percent of the state's 880 municipal water systems. Unlike Des Moines, many of these cities and towns don't even have the ability to filter out excess nitrates, which means this isn't just a budgetary problem. It's also a major public health problem.
Consider the fact that the federal government requires that nitrates not exceed 10 milligrams per liter of water, which is a level that can prove deadly to infants 6 months and younger. Now consider the fact that in 2015, 11 public water sources across Iowa — including municipalities, churches, residential care facilities and mobile home parks — exceeded that federal nitrates limit, according to Iowa's own Department of Natural Resources.
Just last month, the Xenia Rural Water District in northcentral Iowa, which buys its water from Boone, warned residents that nitrate levels exceeded the federal cap. Parents were asked to not use the water for baby formula, juice and other food given to infants.
While rural Iowans are warned not to give their children the water that pours from their faucet, Branstad's initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation is doling out advice like this: "Take a few minutes every day to get 'centered' . Know your values, ethics and passions . Start discovering your purpose in life (and) developing a personal mission statement."
As long as the governor and other leaders take this approach to promoting wellness, and as long as they refuse to force drainage districts to comply with the federal Clean Water Act, lawsuits such as the one filed by the Des Moines Water Works will be necessary.
If the utility prevails in court, it would be a victory for all Iowans — not just those in urban areas.
The Hawk Eye (Burlington). July 5, 2015
To the detriment of the people in southern Iowa, governor closes two necessary mental-health facilities
Despite the wishes of the people in southern Iowa, despite the decision made by the elected representatives of the state of Iowa, the governor has vetoed funding for the mental health institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. That means hundreds of people will be out of jobs — the governor doesn't seem to care about that, though he says he is all about helping create jobs in Iowa — and hundreds more will have to go to facilities in northern Iowa — a costly commute — one of them not too far from where the governor grew up.
The governor said, when he used his line-item veto to override the decision of the Legislature, that there were other options for people to get mental-health care in southern Iowa. If that's true, then why keep the one in Independence and the one in Clarinda open? Why not close them too, governor? Or, why not close them and keep the ones in southern Iowa open?
And, state law requires there be four mental-health institutes. The governor shrugs at the law on this one.
He says the ones below Interstate 80 are old. But the one in Independence is older, so it's failed logic.
It, unfortunately, appears there is little chance the Legislature has the muscle to override the governor's veto, though that's one of the powers they've been entrusted with by the state's constitution.
They should give it a try. We elected a governor, not a dictator. And he needs to be held in check as much as a member of a local city council or any state legislator.
But that seems unlikely.
"(Branstad) talks about moving forward with our mental-health system, but I think we're moving backward," state Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, told The Hawk Eye.
Gov. Branstad has gone to the podium promoting Iowa. It's a ruse. When he was shilling for votes in southeast Iowa on the last election, he went to a televisions station in Illinois to buy advertising time. If he really cared about promoting Iowa, he would have bought advertising in the newspapers in Keokuk or Fort Madison. It wasn't about promoting Iowa, it was about promoting him.
This newspaper gave him our endorsement. We're taking it back.
Lawmakers debated, as is their duty, and decided to fund the southern Iowa mental-health facilities. But, those necessary facilities are going to close because one guy in Des Moines thinks he knows better. He doesn't.
The people of Iowa will not be better off because the governor thinks he knows better. It's just the opposite.
And that's unfortunate for the people of Iowa.
Fort Dodge Messenger. July 5, 2015
Be sure to attend your county fair
These local events are highlights of summer across Iowa
Times change. Even so there are a few constants in life. One is the pleasure provided by the county fairs that continue to be a highlight of summer in the Hawkeye State.
For as far back as anyone who now lives in this part of Iowa can remember, these summer festivals have been much-anticipated and much-enjoyed features of summertime.
The fairs, of course, have changed over the decades. One central theme, however, remains much the same — a celebration of farm life and the assorted positive educational and personal-growth pursuits that are treasured features of life in rural and small-town Iowa.
With this year's fair season beginning to unfold, The Messenger would be remiss if it did not acknowledge the important role these events play in the life of north central Iowa.
These fairs are more than just 4-H and FFA events, but the central focus of much that transpires at them is a celebration of the hard work 4-H'ers and FFA members have put forth on a wide array of projects during the last year. These festivals afford 4-H'ers and FFA members well-deserved opportunities to showcase their endeavors. For some, it is the culmination of the year's efforts. For others, it is one stop on the way to the Iowa State Fair.
Anyone who has taken a careful look at contemporary 4-H can't help but be impressed by the breadth of the projects 21st-century 4-H promotes. Some would be familiar to fairgoers of the past. The assorted agricultural and handicraft projects, though reflecting much new knowledge and science, certainly have roots in fairs of yesteryear. Other projects, exhibits and events illustrate the needs and interests of young people in this rapidly changing world and are far removed from yesterday's pursuits. FFA, similarly, has a distinctly 21st-century focus.
For county fairs to remain a vibrant part of contemporary life, they must change to reflect society. And they have.
Don't let this summer pass without taking the time to sample what your county fair has to offer. This year's fair schedule for the counties in The Messenger circulation area follows:
Mark the appropriate dates on your calendar and plan to join your neighbors at the fair. You'll be glad you did.
—Calhoun County — July 8-12
—Greene County — July 7-13
—Hamilton County —July 21-27
—Humboldt County — July 21-27
—Kossuth County — Aug. 4-8
—Palo Alto County — July 23-26
—Pocahontas County — July 16-20
—Sac County — July 29- Aug. 1
—Webster County — July8-12
—Wright County — July8-13
Mason City Globe Gazette. July 8, 2015
Keep emergency radio on fast track
State, county and local law officials made a startling revelation recently.
When a bank was robbed in Maynard in 2012 and a chase ensued through three counties, radio communications were, as Iowa State Patrol Trooper Brian Bartels put it bluntly, "horrible." Bartels, a pilot said no one knew what was going on on the ground. Bremer County Sheriff Dan Pickett said there was too much static and confusion because the system couldn't handle it.
That's strong testament to the need for a statewide interoperable radio system that would allow agencies to communicate in emergencies or major events. State, county and local officers are joining in supporting the push for the system.
It's almost surprising that Iowa doesn't have such a radio communications system yet; our seven border states do.
But it's coming: A planned $68 million system that Motorola is scheduled to have in operation as early as 2017. It would be the largest Iowa public safety project ever conducted.
We hope the project remains on the fast track. It's time to catch up before an emergency or natural disaster occurs.