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Iowa Chapter Documents
A list of where and how incidents occurred and how many fish were killed.
Animal Feeding Operations in Iowa and Reported Fish Kills Attributed to Human Causes
Facilities are required to report bypasses caused by mechanical failures to the DNR within 12 hours of onset or discovery. Facilities do not have to immediately report bypasses from precipitation events, but must include them in their monthly operating report to the DNR. Click here to see the most current information about your city's bypass history this year.
Follow DNR's progress in its river and stream designation process.
Clean water belongs to you! Enforce clean water laws, protect aquatic life, hold polluters accountable.
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Topsoil a Dirty Subject
Topsoil became a dirty subject for conservationists arguing to retain 4" of topsoil after new development construction and developers who say it's simply too expensive. One of the reasons for the topsoil restoration rule is to help increase water infiltration into the soil, to prevent runoff and erosion, to retain healthy soil and to lessen the degradation of water quality. Topsoil retention will aid the homebuyers in their efforts to establish landscaping on their lots – grass, trees and gardens.
The EPC at its September meeting directed the DNR to commence rulemaking on the issue after accepting a stakeholder group's recommendation on preserving topsoil would modify a general permit requiring topsoil preservation for construction sites that disturb one acre or more adopted in the fall of 2012. The current rule calls for retaining four inches of topsoil spread on the surface, unless infeasible. The rulemaking process generally takes several months to complete and includes an opportunity for the public to submit comments.
Concerns about high costs of implementing the rule arose in 2013. A stakeholder group was organized in accordance with Executive Order 80, signed by Gov. Branstad in 2012, that requires rulemaking authorities to work with those who will be affected by new regulations. The governor claimed at its signing that executive order is about injecting common-sense into the regulatory process.
Not all Iowans would agree that the topsoil stakeholder group injected common sense into the process since the majority of the group's members are involved with new development construction. Members of the topsoil stakeholder group included Pat Sauer, Iowa Storm Water Education Program; Creighton Cox, Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines; Joe Pietruszynski of Hubbell Realty; Chip Classon, Jerry’s Homes; Lucy Hershberger, Forever Green Inc.; Mark Watkins, McAninch Corporation; and Chad Ingels, member of the Environmental Protection Commission.
Sierra Club Iowa Chapter wrote to DNR Director Chuck Gipp in April 2014 requesting that he expand the stakeholder group membership to include additional stakeholders who are interested in protecting water quality and restoring the soil to a site so that the normal ground water functions are returned. Gipp ignored the Chapter request.
Sierra Club Iowa Chapter Applauds New Clean Water Rule to Restore Protections to Small
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps)
“This proposed rule is long overdue and will benefit millions of people across the country and in Iowa,”
For the past decade, there has been confusion over which streams and wetlands are covered by the
“We will urge the Obama Administration to finalize a strong rule to restore protections to all water,
i Analysis of the Surface Drinking Water Provided By Intermittent, Ephemeral, and Headwater Streams in the U.S. Completed by U.S. EPA in July 2009
Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy
The Iowa Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University released its Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The strategy is supposed to include plans for reducing the amount of Nitrogen and Phosphorus that flow from the Mississippi River watershed into the Gulf of Mexico, where the pollutants contribute to the dead zone.
The strategy, however, addresses a reduction in Nitrogen and Phosphorus resulting from non-point sources (primarily agriculture) by voluntary compliance, more research and additional technology.
Read the strategy document. Be advised that the Nutrient Reduction Strategy is 197 pages long.
DNR responds to EPA informal investigation on permitting
UPDATE: The EPA has posted its draft work plan agreement with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. See the draft agreement.
On September 11,
2012, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued its response
to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) July 2012 informal
investigation of the DNR’s animal feeding operations permit program (see
DNR has agreed in
its response to include:
release partner organizations distributed on September 12, 2012.
July 12, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a
long-awaited report, finding that critical elements of Iowa’s program to
regulate water pollution from factory farms, or “Concentrated Animal
Feeding Operations” (CAFOs) fail to meet minimum federal requirements.
The report is a response to a petition filed in September 2007 by
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), Environmental
Integrity Project (EIP) and the Sierra Club, which alleged widespread
failures to regulate illegal factory farm discharges and asked EPA to
withdraw Iowa’s authority to run the state’s Clean Water Act
UPDATE: WATER QUALITY WINS IN COURT DECISION
In a ruling March 31, 2012, Polk
County District Court Judge Mary Pat Gunderson ruled in favor of the
environment and water quality.
“After more than 30 years, this
antidegradation rule finally brings Iowa into compliance with the Clean
Water Act,” said Wallace Taylor, the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter Legal
Chair. "This rule was the
product of almost three years of effort by the Department of Natural
Resources working with the regulated community and environmental
organizations to adopt a rule that is fair.”
A lawsuit, brought by the Iowa Farm
Bureau Federation (Farm Bureau), Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA)
and Iowa Water Environment Association (IWEA), contended that an
Environmental Protection Commission voted to approve a rule that will
improve the quality of Iowa’s water resources is invalid because one of
the commissioners had a conflict of interest and that another one wasn’t
qualified to vote because she had recently moved out of state.
The lawsuit also asserted the rule is more stringent than federal
law because it protects Outstanding Iowa Waters.
Judge Gunderson ruled that although
then-commissioner Carrie LaSeur, who had moved to Montana prior to the
December 2009 vote, was not an elector of the state of Iowa as required by
statute when she voted on the antidegradation rule, it didn’t matter
because when LaSeur’s disqualification is simply a technical infirmity
that does not go to the heart of her duties and her actions are valid.
The Farm Bureau, IRFA and IWEA
claimed the rule is invalid, in part, because one of the Commissioners is
a water quality advocate for one of the organizations that petitioned the
EPC for rulemaking. Judge
Gunderson ruled that “Susan Heathcote [who served on the commission in
2009] did not have a conflict of interest because the antidegradation rule
finally adopted was not the one IEC, Sierra Club and Hawkeye Fly Fishing
Association submitted [for rulemaking in 2007]; because she had no direct
financial stake in the outcome; because the legislature established the
EPC so commissioners would have expertise in certain areas; and because
the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board cleared her for
Outstanding Iowa Waters protection
also was victorious in today’s decision.
Judge Gunderson ruled that the protections may or may not be more
restrictive than the federal rule, but the EPC substantially complied with
the notice requirement.
The Environmental Protection Agency approved Iowa’s Antidegradation rule and Antidegradation Implementation Procedure in September 2010.
On October 13, Polk County District Judge Brad McCall ruled that the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) would not be required to hand over internal emails concerning the antidegradation rules to the Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and the Iowa Water Environment Association as part of the three organizations’ lawsuit against the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Commission. The Iowa Farm Bureau and the other organization sought the emails to determine if Susan Heathcote, IEC’s Water Program Director, had used her position as an Environmental Protection Commission member to push the rule’s passage. The judge ruled that Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Water Environment Association had enough material from IEC to prepare their case. EPC and DNR filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking that the case be decided in their favor without a trial. The judge ruled that Farm Bureau and its allies have until November 4, 2011, to file papers letting him know why the case should proceed to trial. Read the ruling.
Triennial Review Draft Work Plan Now Available
Earlier this year, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
sought Iowans’ thoughts on improving the state’s water quality goals
as the DNR conducted its every-three-years review of water quality
standards. The triennial review process ensures water quality standards,
as listed in Chapter 61 of the Iowa Administrative Code, are up-to-date.
Iowans had the opportunity to attend meetings held across the state.
The meetings, part of the triennial review process set forth in the
federal Clean Water Act, allow Iowans the opportunity to provide the DNR
information to help in setting the goals for streams and rivers. Following
the meetings, the DNR met with a technical advisory committee to evaluate
the suggestions. The DNR then prioritized the issues identified in the
comments and developed a work plan to address those items.
See the DRAFT Triennial Review Process Summary and Work Plan report.
More information, including the full text of Chapter 61, is also
available at www.iowadnr.gov/water/uaa.html
on the left side of the screen under “Iowa Administrative
If you have questions/comments about the DRAFT Triennial Review report,
please contact Rochelle Cardinale by close of business, October 31, 2014.
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved Iowa's 2012 impaired waters list -- the latest available. The list contains 489 water bodies (up from 446 in 2010) with a total of 642 impairments (up from 605 in 2010).
Read more here...
Iowa Public Drinking Water Program Annual Compliance Report
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has released its Public Drinking Water Program Annual Compliance Report. See how the state fared in 2010.
Paddling Season is Here -- Keep Safety a Priority
From the Iowa Department of Natural Resources
time to get the canoes and kayaks out of storage and begin the 2011 Iowa
paddling season. Before heading to the water, boats and gear stored over
the winter should be examined to make sure everything is in top shape.
on the water and preparing for paddling challenges mentally and physically
are priorities, especially early in the season.
though air temperatures are warming up, water temperatures are still in
the 40s and 50s, so wearing a wetsuit in case the boat dumps can protect
against hypothermia. It would be a good idea to wear clothing in layers.
lifejacket should be mandatory every time when paddling, regardless of
swimming skills. State law requires children 13 years of age and younger
to be wearing lifejackets. Check lifejackets for loose or
damaged straps and repair any tears. If it can’t be repaired, buy a new
properly fitting lifejacket..
that hypothermia can affect motor skills, energy and mental competence. A
lifejacket will keep you afloat and help to re-enter the boat, swim to
shore and keep the body core warm. Never paddle alone and always let
someone know where you are paddling, the expected duration of the outing,
and expected return.
boat and paddles for damage. Make sure float bags or dry bags for canoes
are undamaged and have no leaks. Have all re-chargeable batteries charged
and tested and make sure the GPS and weather radios are working properly.
of weather, always take a dry bag with a dry set of clothes to change into
in case you get wet. Fire starting tools, a first aid kit and plenty of
drinking water should always be included. If taking the cell phone, keep
it in a cell phone dry sack specifically made for cell phones.
be aware of changing river conditions. After snowmelt and heavy spring
rains, “strainers” and “sweepers” can appear in new locations.
Strainers can be trees that have fallen in the river with branches above
the surface that can trap you. Sweepers are low hanging trees and branches
that dangle just above the surface of the water, possibly grabbing or
knocking you out of the boat. And always be aware of low head dam
locations. For a list of dam locations, go to http://www.iowadnr.gov/riverprograms/files/dam_map.pdf
can be a physically demanding activity. Properly warming up with simple
stretching exercises can help prevent injuries. Another warm up exercise
is to paddle “up” river a short distance before starting the journey
downstream. The resistance of the current helps with getting loose and
gives the heart a nice work out.
Iowa has 18,000 miles of navigable waterways, and no shortage of streams and lakes to paddle. Paddlers can enjoy water trails that currently span 36 counties across the state via streams and lakes of all sizes and lengths.
Groups File Suit to Vacate Antidegradation Rule
UPDATE: Judge Joel Novak ruled on February 3 to allow the Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club, the Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and others. Read the judge's ruling.
The Iowa Chapter filed a Petition to Intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Water Environment Association. See our news release.
Five days after the Environmental Protection Agency notified the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that it had approved the DNR's Antidegradation Rule and Implementation Procedures, three organizations filed a lawsuit asking the judge to issue a stay on the rule. Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Water Environment Association (formerly Iowa Water Pollution Control Association) and Iowa Renewable Fuels Association claim an illegal vote by one member of the Environmental Protection Commission (the body authorizing approval of the Iowa rule) and a conflict of interest by another member as grounds to vacate the rule
Find out about this lawsuit, the history of the antidegradation rule and more here....
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that it had approved Iowa's Antidegradation Rule and Implementation Procedures in a letter on September 30. The decision was announced to the general public in a news release on October 4, 2010. EPA's announcement culminated a petition for rulemaking submitted to the DNR by the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, Iowa Environmental Council and Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association in October 2007 that will bring Iowa closer to compliance of the Clean Water Act.
Also on October 4, 2010, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the Iowa Water Environment Association (formerly Iowa Water Pollution Control Association) and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association filed a lawsuit in Polk County asking a judge to vacate the rule that was three years in the making. The lawsuit contends that the vote by the Environmental Protection Commission in December 2009 was illegal because one commissioner had moved out of state and another commissioner had a conflict of interest. Find out about the lawsuit, the rule's history and more.
Antidegradation Rule and Outstanding Iowa Waters List Approved
The Administrative Rules Review Committee at its February meeting allowed the antidegradation rule, including the Outstanding Iowa Waters list, to pass without legislative intervention; but it wasn’t without strong opposition.
Sen. Merlin Bartz (R-Grafton) moved to object to the rule. Bartz argued that many questions were left unanswered and that alternatives to degradation defined by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were not written in a manual. The senator also argued that a provision requiring a community to determine the importance of economic or social development to justify degradation of waters “could shut down the state.” He wanted to shift the burden of proof to the DNR if an individual or a community ever filed a lawsuit as a result of the rule.
Sen. Wally Horn (D-Cedar Rapids) expressed concern that two quarries in his district would negatively be impacted by the rule. He said that quarry operators are scared and he wanted assurances that the DNR won’t be “going after everybody” right away.
James Larew, General Counsel from the Governor’s Office, told legislators
that a letter sent to ARRC members by Gov. Chet Culver supporting the rule
was unusual, but it’s the Governor’s view that Iowans feel strongly about
having clean water. Larew said he
had heard nothing during deliberations Monday to indicate that the DNR rule
is capricious, unreasonable or beyond the jurisdiction of the agency, a
requirement for the ARRC’s objecting to the rule.
James Larew, General Counsel from the Governor’s Office, told legislators that a letter sent to ARRC members by Gov. Chet Culver supporting the rule was unusual, but it’s the Governor’s view that Iowans feel strongly about having clean water. Larew said he had heard nothing during deliberations Monday to indicate that the DNR rule is capricious, unreasonable or beyond the jurisdiction of the agency, a requirement for the ARRC’s objecting to the rule.
Ultimately, legislators passed the rule by taking no action on it. Six votes were required for Sen. Bartz’s objection motion to pass. ARRC members voting to support Sen. Bartz’s objection included Bartz, Sen. James Seymour (R-Woodbine,) Rep. Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) and Rep. David Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant). Legislators opposing the objection included Rep. Marcella Frevert (D-Emmetsburg), chair of the committee, Sen. Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg), Sen. Thomas Courtney (D-Burlington), Rep. Tyler Olson (D-Cedar Rapids), Rep. Nathan Reichert (D-Muscatine) and Sen. Horn.
The Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) approved at its December 2009 meeting DNR's proposed Antidegradation Rule that includes an Outstanding Iowa Waters list in the rule package.
The OIW list was reduced to includes two lakes in Dickinson County (West Okoboji Lake and Big Spirit Lake) and 32 stream segments in northeast Iowa.
The rule now goes to the Administrative Rules Review Committee ( ARRC), a legislative oversight committee for approval before the rule is reviewed by the Attorney General's Office and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The ARRC will address the rule at its February meeting.
The purpose of the antidegradation policy is to set minimum
requirements for the state to follow in order to conserve, maintain, and
protect existing uses and water quality. Antidegradation procedures are
designed to keep clean water clean by not allowing water quality to get worse
and to prevent undue degradation of waters. If the water quality in a lake or
river is better than minimum standards, increased pollutant discharges can be
allowed only after a review demonstrating that increased pollution is needed
to accommodate important social or economic activity.
Key components of the rule package include:
· No new or increased pollutants will be allowed if data shows that the increased pollution would kill or injure fish or other wildlife, or create a public health risk.
· All waters will be protected against pollution that is not absolutely necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the community.
· Leave Iowa’s high-quality lakes and streams listed as Outstanding Iowa Waters (OIW) intact. Degradation should always be prohibited.
Any activity that could potentially degrade water quality will
be subject to an antidegradation review so that only the least polluting
alternative is allowed.
The DNR accommodated polluters by reducing the number of stream segments for listing as Outstanding Iowa Waters to 32 (down from 45) and two lakes (down from seven) that were initially proposed. The 118 miles of OIW stream segments (down from 228 miles) include several exceptional cold-water trout streams in northeast Iowa. The two lakes included on the OIW list are Big Spirit Lake and West Okoboji Lake. Some industries and cities wanted all waters removed from the list to allow additional pollution for as long as possible. The rule will allow more waters to be added later through a separate nomination process; however, the process will be extremely difficult and require whoever nominates the stream segment or lake to prove that the water body is worthy of protection.
EPA Denies Mississippi River Segments' TMDL for Arsenic
Earlier this year, EPA issued a public notice draft for total maximum daily loads (TMDL) for arsenic for two segments of the Mississippi River. EPA intended to establish the TMDLs as milestones of a 2001 Consent Decree. After receiving public comment and investigating, EPA determined that it is not required by the Consent Decree to establish TMDLs for the arsenic impairment. Read the decision.
Recreational Use Assessment and Attainability
The Environmental Protection Commission approved a Notice of Intended Action by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources proposing rulemaking to downgrade the recreational and warm water aquatic life use designations for approximately 408 river and stream segments.
You can find a map of the proposed designations here. You can also find a list that includes the county where the segment is located here. You can also search for more detailed information with DNR's database by city, facility and stream.
DNR requested comments from the public on their recommendations to lower recreational use protections on 119 stream segments from the current primary contact recreational standard that protects for swimming, children’s play and other full body contact recreational uses (A1 and A3) to a less protective secondary contact recreational standard that only protects for incidental contact with the water (A2).
Click here for a map that shows the streams included in the second round of stream assessments. The map is color-coded to show the DNR recommendations. The stream segments shown in red or blue will get the highest recreational use protection (A1 or A3). The streams shown in green are proposed to be downgraded to the lower secondary contact level of protection (A2).
The public comment period has ended and DNR currently is reviewing comments. A responsiveness summary will be available in the next few months with DNR's final recommendations.
If you want to look at the actual UAA assessment data and rationale for
the DNR recommendations, that is available on the DNR website at http://programs.iowadnr.gov/uaa/search.aspx.
This is a searchable database where you can search by stream name
or permitted facility. If you
put the stream name in you will get all the streams with that name that
have UAAs. Sometimes there is more than one stream with the same
name, so you need to be sure to pick the right stream.
Additional information is
available on the DNR website at http://www.iowadnr.gov/water/uaa.html
Additional information is available on the DNR website at http://www.iowadnr.gov/water/uaa.html .
The DNR released, and in late 2007 the Environmental Protection Commission approved, action to downgrade 292 streams. This number represented approximately one third of the anticipated re-designations.
At its April 16, 2008, meeting, the Environmental Protection Commission approved the stream use designation rules, with amendments affecting 18 stream segments. Under the amendments, A1 primary contact recreational designation to protect swimming and canoeing was retained for 8 stream segments and A3 primary contact children's recreational use was designated for 8 stream segments. See the list of streams included in that decision here...
May 2009, EPA approved revised Iowa water quality standards to support
recreational activities and the protection of aquatic life. The approved
water quality standards protect 83 water bodies in Iowa. In November
2009, EPA approved 79 use designation changes and disapproved 71 use
designation changes from Iowa’s August 2008 submittal of revised water
quality standards. In June 2010, EPA approved the Iowa DNR's designated
use changes for 64 water bodies and disapproved changes for 93 water
bodies. Designated uses describe the achievable recreational activities
and aquatic life uses in Iowa’s waters. EPA is finalizing action on the
remaining 19 water bodies.
information on EPA’s decisions can be found in letters
to DNR available at http://www.epa.gov/region07/news_events/legal.
Ask Congress to Restore the Clean Water Act!
The Midwest's streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands are in jeopardy. Recent Supreme Court decisions have weakened the Clean Water Act, allowing an estimated 10,000 water bodies to lose federal pollution protection. Unless Congress acts quickly to restore the Clean Water Act, more streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands will risk unregulated pollution and outright destruction.
In Iowa alone, more than 62% of streams and up to 72% of the state’s prairie pothole wetlands could lose CWA safeguards.
This Earth Day, do your part to protect our nation's water. Write your members of Congress and urge them to support the Clean Water Restoration Act. Find a sample letter here.
Last Updated 1/22/2015