Legislative Interim Committee considers river restoration in Iowa

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Iowa Rivers Revival urged the Iowa Legislature to convene a Rivers and Waterways Study Committee. The all day session was a very important milestone for protecting and improving Iowa’s rivers and streams.

More than sixty-five people and 9 legislators attended the Iowa Rivers and Waterways Interim Study Committee at the Iowa Statehouse on Tuesday, Dec. 10, to hear from a broad group of stakeholders about the importance of a statewide River Restoration Program for Iowa.  Iowa Rivers Revival applauds the Iowa Legislature for taking steps to learn more about efforts to improve and protect Iowa’s rivers and streams, and protect Iowa’s lands.

Here are two news reports on the Interim Committee meeting:
–  Des Moines Register:  $300,000 requested for river plan
–  WHO-TV13:  CLEAN UP: Lawmakers Talk River Restoration

IRR presented to the Legislative Study Committee potential elements of a River Restoration Program and the many ways river restoration would benefit Iowa <IRR’s presentation>.  Testimony provided by state agencies, non-profit groups, landowners, and field and technical experts reinforced a unified message that a River Restoration Program for Iowa could help enhance local economies, preserve Iowa’s farmland, reduce nutrient pollution, improve wildlife habitat, and help lessen the damage of flooding.

The Legislative Study Committee will reconvene in mid-January to discuss possible next steps for establishing a state River Restoration Program.  We urge you to contact YOUR legislators.  Ask them to support the work of the Iowa Rivers and Waterways Legislative Study Committee and to create a statewide River Restoration Program
–  Contact your Legislators
–  Write a letter to the editor:  find your local paper or contact the Des Moines Register.

Iowa Rivers Revival is asking the Interim Study Committee to recommend to the full legislature an appropriation to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for the purpose of designating adequate staff with responsibilities to
–  Convene an inter-agency task force that includes private/public partnerships.
–  Research and survey information about river restoration through expert testimony, stakeholders, and examples of applied best practices.
–  Identify revenue sources appropriate for a successful Iowa River Restoration program.
–  Develop a plan that establishes statewide criteria and regional targeting, and identifies meaningful and effective river restoration priorities.
–  Recommend a River Restoration Program budget.

Helpful Links:
–  Submit comments to the Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee (as of Dec 12 they appear to still be accepting comments)
–  Review comments submitted to the Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee
–  IRR’s comments to the Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee
–  IRR’s Fact Sheet on River Restoration
–  Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee

Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee Meets Dec 10

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PrairieAndWoodsBigSiouxIowa Rivers Revival was successful last legislative session in encouraging the Iowa Legislature to convene an Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee. The committee will meet on Tuesday, December 10th at 10 a.m. at the Iowa Statehouse to hear testimony from a broad group of stakeholders in considering options for restoring the quality of Iowa’s rivers and waterways. The Study Committee objectives are to develop recommendations for an initial plan to prioritize river and waterway projects and provide defined goals and measurable improvements.

View the meeting agenda.

Iowans have the ear of the Iowa legislature – the Study Committee is accepting comments through Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013.  IRR’s recommendation for consideration by the upcoming Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee is the establishment of a planning process within the Iowa DNR to develop a proposal for an Iowa River Restoration Program. View IRR’s full comments submitted to the Study Committee on November 21.

–  SUBMIT your comments in support of efforts to improve Iowa’s water quality and the conditions of our rivers and streams are needed to help inform and influence this process.

An Iowa River Restoration Program, would provide a framework for targeted restoration, preservation, enhancement and beneficial use of Iowa rivers. The program can be based on existing models such as Iowa’s successful Lake Restoration Program, and on best river restoration practices learned from other states. Iowa’s rivers face tremendously complicated challenges, and developing a program run by professionals with appropriate training and experience is crucial to restoring river structure and function, and improving water quality. Decisions and actions that impact our waterways affect the economic, environmental, social and political environment of Iowa communities and states downstream.

Restoring Iowa’s rivers would benefit all Iowans – it would improve water quality, enhance local economies, preserve Iowa’s farmland, improve wildlife habitat, and help reduce the impacts of flooding.

For information, visit IRR’s River Restoration webpage.

Legislature seeks input on Iowa’s Rivers

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Paddlers at Turkey River Rocks! Photo courtesy of Lee Searles.

The Iowa Legislative Interim Study Committee on Rivers and Waterways is seeking input before the committee meets, Dec. 10. Let them know you care about the quality and health of Iowa’s rivers.

To submit your comments:

– Go to the General Assembly’s home page at www.legis.iowa.gov, and under “Popular Links,” look for “Public Input: Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee”
– Click “Submit Response” to submit comments
– To view others’ responses, click “View Moderated Responses”

IRR is currently preparing our own set of comments, which will include:

1. At the top of IRR’s list for upcoming state legislative action is creation of an  Iowa River Restoration Program to focus attention on rivers and streams and their adjacent corridors.

Most states have such programs, which can improve water quality,  recreational opportunities, flood management and wildlife habitat. Some river-restoration practices can also significantly decrease phosphorus and nitrogen runoff and should be considered as part of Iowa’s Nutrient Management Strategy.

2. Maintaining and increasing funding for state funded river-related natural resources programs. 

Increasing the Infrastructure Appropriation for the Low-Head Dam Public Hazard and Water Trails program to at least $2M.

– Supporting full funding for Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program.  REAP is authorized by the state legislature to be funded up to $20 M annually, however it has never been fully funded. REAP provides essential funding for soil and water conservation, habitat protection and recreation resources.

– Providing a reliable and consistent revenue stream for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

3.  Establishing effective river nutrient standards and targeting the state’s natural resource protection programs to assure effective use of taxpayer dollars.

In brief, IRR supports measures that would help clean up our waterways and improve their natural functions. We oppose changes in regulations or programs that could exacerbate threats to our rivers and streams.


IRR urges “interested parties” in rivers to consult with Iowa legislators

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Recent redevelopment of Charles City’s Riverfront Park along the Cedar River is bringing new vitality and economic opportunity to the city. Photo by Ann Y. Robinson.

IRR applauds the Iowa legislature for establishing an Iowa Rivers and Waterways Study Committee, scheduled to meet Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

Their charge: Consult with interested parties in considering options for restoring the quality of Iowa’s rivers and waterways. Interested parties may include engineers, local watershed partnerships, persons who farm near rivers and waterways, anglers, boaters, and other interested parties. Develop recommendations for an initial plan to prioritize river and waterway projects and provide defined goals and measurable improvements.

IRR calls on all friends of Iowa’s rivers to voice your concern for rivers as an  “interested party” to the committee’s work! Contact your local legislators to call for improved programs for Iowa’s rivers and streams, and to support the work of the Interim Legislative Committee.

If you live in the District of one of these committee members, your call is especially important!

Senate Members
House Members

→ Get informed. Find out more about river restoration at http://iowarivers.org/legislative/river-restoration/

IRR is working with partners to plan opportunities for Iowans to learn more about river restoration. Watch for updates about the legislative study committee and other river restoration news here and in IRR e-News and alerts.

Master River Stewards wrap up 2013

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2013 Master River Stewards Program participants learn about water monitoring.
2013 Master River Stewards Program participants learn about water monitoring.

In 2013, IRR offered the Master River Steward program in central Iowa to 22 participants with a connection to the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers.

The 8-week program included indoor and outdoor sessions on watersheds, river form and function, navigating rivers, habitat and wildlife, river chemistry and water monitoring, policy impacts of water and soil management, and stream restoration.  After being immersed in river details for six weeks, small groups organized to plan hands-on stewardship projects, which they reported on at a final class in September.

The program was made possible, thanks to generous support from Metro Waste Authority, Des Moines Water Works, Polk County Conservation, DNR’s IOWATER and River programs, Iowa Soybean Association and RDG Planning & Design.

IRR greatly appreciates Dr. Jim Pease, program coordinator, for his expertise and terrific support. Thanks also to the Iowa DNR, Iowa State University, Iowa Soybean Association and Practical Farmers of Iowa for instruction and support.

IRR’s Master River Steward Program (MRSP) was conceived as an opportunity for persons with an interest in Iowa’s rivers to learn and develop skills to become more effective and confident river stewards. This is the second year the program has been offered in Central Iowa. In 2014, IRR plans to bring the program to the Cedar and Iowa rivers in eastern Iowa, thanks to support from REAP.

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