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Who Should be Guarding Iowa’s Water Quality?

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Thursday, March 24, 2011   

DES MOINES, Iowa - With little fanfare, legislation has been moving through the Statehouse to take some regulatory duties from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and hand them to the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Backers of the proposal say it will be more efficient to let the Agriculture Department oversee non-point source pollution, which includes agriculture runoff. However, Marian Riggs-Gelb, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, is fearful that the move will set back the state's water quality efforts.

"I am basically fearful that if this proposal goes through, we will be moving Iowa a good 12 years or so back in time."

The DNR has been ranked ninth in the nation for efficiency by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which recently warned that if the bill passes it would severely stress limited state and federal resources, Riggs-Gelb says, She also is concerned that the bill could be payback for the DNR's efforts to stop farm runoff.

"They have incurred the ire of some of the maybe large agri-industries. So, to basically move power and money away from a department they don't like and put it into a department they do like."

Gov. Terry Branstad already has instructed the DNR and the Department of Agriculture to begin to outline how the programs would function if the legislature mandated the transfer, Riggs-Gelb says.


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