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IA's Topsoil Rule: Changes Could Worsen Flooding

PHOTO: Iowa's Environmental Protection Commission will meet mid-July to begin discussions on possible changes to the state's rule on topsoil restoration at construction sites. Photo credit: 1,000 Friends of Iowa.
PHOTO: Iowa's Environmental Protection Commission will meet mid-July to begin discussions on possible changes to the state's rule on topsoil restoration at construction sites. Photo credit: 1,000 Friends of Iowa.
June 27, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa – In an agricultural state such as Iowa, topsoil is one of the most valued natural resources. But concerns are being raised about possible changes to the state's rules about replacing topsoil at construction sites.

As it stands now, if one acre or more of land is disturbed during construction of a home or business and there's at least four inches of topsoil present, it must be restored unless that isn't feasible. Some developers want that requirement eased because of cost, so options are now being considered, according to Adam Schnieders with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"Those concerns were raised to the department and the governor's office," Schnieders says. "So, a stakeholder group was put together to examine what alternatives could be explored to change the four-inch topsoil requirement so it was less costly to implement, but still meets the federal intent."

Schnieders is the program supervisor for the DNR's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Those opposed to changing the rule, including the group 1000 Friends of Iowa, say maintaining four inches of topsoil helps establish healthy landscapes, and lessens erosion and runoff.

Schnieders says keeping a healthy layer of topsoil also helps protect water quality and with the mitigation of flooding from heavy rainfalls.

"If you don't have topsoil present, it could result in more 'flashy' flows," he explains. "If it hits the surface, it can run off much more quickly, adding to potential localized flooding."

The public can weigh in on the proposed changes with the Iowa DNR and should do so soon for their comments to be considered at the next meeting of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission on July 15.

Background and information about how to comment is online at the Regulatory - Water page on the DNR website.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA