On the Radio: The drought’s environmental benefits

Photo by cwwycoff1, Flickr.
Photo by cwwycoff1, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses the benefits of last year’s drought.

This past year’s drought actually had some benefits for Iowa’s environment.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

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On the Radio: Governor proposes plan to reduce dead zone

Governor Terry Branstad. Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr.
Governor Terry Branstad. Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses a proposal by Governor Terry Branstad to reduce Iowa’s nutrient runoff.

Governor Terry Branstad has released a 200-page proposal to reduce Iowa’s impact on the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

Public meetings for nutrient reduction plan

Mississippi River. Photo by christopherbarnette, Flickr.
Mississippi River. Photo by christopherbarnette, Flickr.

As we’ve posted about over the past few weeks (1,2), a plan to reduce Iowa’s waterway nutrient pollution is under review.

The public can attend three upcoming meeting to learn more about the plan. The first meeting is on the 17th in Denison, the second one is on the 19th at Iowa State University and the last one is on the 21st in Waterloo.

The plan looks to limit nutrient pollution primarily by making wastewater treatment and industrial plants get upgrades that will reduce their pollution. Farming accounts for the majority of nutrient pollution, and the plan calls for farmers to voluntarily reduce their nutrient runoff.

Nitrogen and phosphorous that gets into the waterways can travel down the Mississippi River and contribute to the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone. The dead zone is an area that’s unlivable for most marine life due to its low oxygen levels. This occurs because the nutrient pollution increases algae activity in the gulf. The algae then consume oxygen in the gulf leaving low levels for other marine life.

Read more about the meetings here.

Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy

Photo by pawpaw67, Flickr

Make sure to check out the proposed Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

This plan is designed to limit the amount of nutrients entering our waterways, which should help reduce environmental issues like the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone.

Up until January 4, Iowans have a chance to offer feedback online for this proposal.

The proposal has already received criticism for being too friendly towards farmers.

Read more here.

Iowa Environmental Council sues EPA over water quality

Gulf of Mexico. Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia, Flickr.

The Iowa Environmental Council and other environmental groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency. They hope that legal action will prompt the EPA to put limits on the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in Iowa’s waterways.

This pollution hurts Iowa’s water quality, and also contributes to the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone.

The lawsuit challenges the EPA’s denial of a 2008 petition requesting limits on nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as cleanup plans for the pollution.

Read the full press release from the Iowa Environmental Council here.

Flooded farmland converted to wetlands in Clinton County

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region, Flickr

Clinton County is making the best of a bad situation. 100 acres of former farmland  that was flooded in 2008 and 2010, is being converted into wetlands and prairie. The land in near Wheatland, along the lower Wapsipinicon River. A federal grant and area groups pledged nearly $100,000 to purchase the land. Continue reading

On the Radio: Runoff contributes to largest dead zone in history

Photo by Steve Shupe, Flickr

 Listen to this week’s radio segment here.  It discusses the impact that Miswestern runoff has on the Gulf of Mexico.

Imagine an area of the ocean equal to 20 percent of Iowa that’s unlivable for most marine life. This will soon be a reality in the Gulf of Mexico as they prepare for the largest dead zone in history. Continue reading

Farm runoff may cause largest Dead Zone yet

Photo by Joe Germuska, Flickr

Iowa is one of nine states along the Mississippi River implicated in contributing to what is expected to be the largest dead zone ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

The New York Times reports that phosphorous and nitrogen from fertilizers and animal waste runoff are largely to blame for the dead zones. The recent flooding along the Mississippi has exacerbated this runoff. With this impending damage to the Gulf, environmentalists are calling for stricter regulations of farms near the Mississippi:

For years, environmentalists and advocates for a cleaner gulf have been calling for federal action in the form of regulation. Since 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency has been encouraging all states to place hard and fast numerical limits on the amount of those chemicals allowed in local waterways. Yet of the nine key farm states that feed the dead zone, only two, Illinois and Indiana, have acted, and only to cover lakes, not the rivers or streams that merge into the Mississippi.

Many of the farmers along the Mississippi fear that the EPA will indeed heed the call and set chemical limits.

Don Parish, senior director of regulatory relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group, says behind that policy is the faulty assumption that farmers fertilize too much or too casually. Since 1980, he said, farmers have increased corn yields by 80 percent while at the same time reducing their nitrate use by 4 percent through precision farming.

“We are on the razor’s edge,” Mr. Parish said. “When you get to the point where you are taking more from the soil than you are putting in, then you have to worry about productivity.” Continue reading