Iowa in the News – for Rivers, not Candidates

American Rivers listed the Iowa River on our America’s Most Endangered River list for 2007 (see video below). I was fortunate to be the river liaison for that river and had the chance to learn more about Iowa’s great rivers from our partners at the Iowa Environmental Council. The threat to the river was a failure to properly implement and enforce the landmark Clean Water Act. Iowa’s state environmental agency was considering adopting a much needed and stronger antidegradation policy, which aims to keep water clean and at least not let it be further degraded. The Iowa Environmental Council and others finally had to petition the state in an attempt to force them to enforce the law!

Now it looks as if there is another controversy brewing about how Iowa makes the Clean Water Act work. The state is now working on a different part of the law, the one that requires all waterbodies to have a designated use, which is then translated into different levels of water quality protection. Some are worried that the state is incorrectly reclassifying waters in a way which will leave them dirtier and unsafe for recreation.

Making sure that state agencies have all the information about how we are using streams for recreation – whether it’s wading, paddling, swimming, fishing – and other uses is key to protecting them. Otherwise, polluters would be happy to see these uses “downgraded” allowing more pollution to be added to our streams and rivers. This seemingly arcane concept of “designated uses” has real meaning for communities and clean water. So now that the Presidential candidates have left Iowa, hopefully the state will have the time to review its proposed changes and make the best decisions for clean water and human health.