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A Holiday Gift You can Give to Iowa’s Rivers

December 17, 2007

Spirit Lake, IA - One of the best holiday gifts you can give this year won't be wrapped in pretty paper and found under the tree. It's taking the time to speak up, on behalf of an Iowa river or stream you use and enjoy during the year.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has already ended its first assessment period for public input, and a second comment period ends on January 2, 2008. The DNR will use the information to decide whether thousands of miles of Iowa waterways can be downgraded from the protections of the federal "Clean Water Act."

When Steve Anderson of Dickinson County found out that state officials were considering downgrading a small lake where he and his neighbors swim, he took action. He believes all Iowans should do the same.

"If you're fishing in them; if you're swimming in them; if you are canoeing, kayaking or whatever on these streams, they need to know, so they have the tools to make right decisions on stream classifications."

Vital water quality protections are at stake, according to Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council. And, with thousands of miles of streams to assess, Heathcote says the DNR needs help from the public.

"This is the critical piece of information that's really missing from the assessments that the DNR was able to do. "

She urges people to take time out from their busy holiday schedules and contact the Iowa DNR before the public comment period ends. If you're not sure what to say or how the process works, she recommends starting with a visit to the Sierra Club Web site, at www.iowa.sierraclub.org. On the site, information forms are available, along with maps to help locate or describe a specific area or waterway.

Dick Layman/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - IA