Feedlot in Iowa fined $2,000 for stream contamination


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | December 29, 2022

An employee of the third largest open feedlot in Iowa pumped onto a field that was too watered with rainwater to absorb the liquid, which resulted in a $2,000 fine, which feedlot owner Brian Wendl paid. 

In June, an Iowa resident reported the manure water was being pumped from the feedlot to a stream connected to Middle Raccoon River near Carroll County. Wendl said he was in Tennesee when he heard of the improper manure pumping, but came back soon after to deal with the contamination. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said there were increased levels of bacteria and ammonia in the stream, but no dead fish were recorded. 

After agreeing to pay the $2,000 fine, The DNR said Wendl increased vegetation growing in the field to help contain manure water contamination. The owner also said he would create better operating procedures to monitor manure water being pumped into the field.

Crashes, accidents reported on roads during Midwest snowstorm


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Grace Smith | December 22, 2022

The state patrol reported responding to numerous accidents and crashes overnight during icy and snowy conditions in Iowa. From Dec. 21 at noon to Dec. 22 at 5 am, state patrol responded to 70 crashes. Four injuries and no fatalities were reported. The DOT said most primary roads are fully covered.

An increase in wind is expected to worsen roads and driving conditions. A front, which came into Iowa Wednesday night, is expected to bring strong winds, with 40 mph to 50 mph gusts on Thursday. The blizzard and snowy conditions are anticipated to continue until Saturday at 6 am. 

Andrew Ansorge, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Johnston, told the Des Moines Register that these conditions are occurring earlier than the forecast had predicted. “It’s not going to be pretty,” Ansorge said. Ansorge also said that traveling is deeply discouraged Thursday and Friday. 

According to Public Works Director Jonathan Gano, Des Moines plans to keep snow plows on major roads until the snow stops falling. From there, the plow will move to residential streets once the major roadways are clear and the storm ends.

Iowa’s drought ahead of winter is the worst in a decade


Via U.S. Drought Monitor

Grace Smith | December 13, 2022

Although Iowa’s drought conditions are improving since November, they are still the worst conditions in 10 years heading into winter, where the cold season and frozen grounds do not provide soil moisture an opportunity to improve. 

“Unless you get into a month like December of last year with the derecho and temperatures in the 70s — you will see some improvement from an anomalous event like that — but overall you don’t really see a lot of change through the wintertime,” State Climatologist Justin Glisan told the Iowa Capital Dispatch

Almost 30 percent of the state is suffering from a severe drought and about 73 percent of Iowa is experiencing moderate drought conditions, per the U.S. Drought Monitor

18 counties in the state are experiencing extreme and exceptional drought conditions in northwest Iowa. Some fields in these counties are also undergoing the worst crop yields in the state. In a November U.S. Department of Agriculture report, only 7 percent of northwest Iowa’s topsoil had adequate moisture. 

Despite northwest Iowa’s soil moisture, around 44 percent of Iowa had adequate or surplus topsoil moisture. The state’s corn yield average is still expected to surpass 200 bushels per acre, despite Iowa’s major drought conditions.

Bird flu in Iowa for a few more weeks


Wild Turkey
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | December 7, 2022

Bird flu has been sweeping through Iowa and it is here to stay. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the most recent case of the virus was found at a Buena Vista County commercial turkey facility. Around 40,000 birds are in that facility. 

Fall and this time of year are when the state sees the most bird migration, usually leading to flocks becoming infected with the contagious bird flu. This was the third case detected in Iowan backyard flocks.  

Waterfowl, like geese and ducks, have also been detected with the virus as hunters have tested them. Orrin Jones, the DNR’s waterfowl biologist said, “It’s very difficult to predict the prevalence of avian influenza based solely on waterfowl activity.” He went on to say, “How common is it out there? What types of birds is it affecting? This new strain is affecting a wider range of species and having a wider range of effects than previous strains. There’s still a lot of uncertainty.” 

About 53 million birds have been killed by the avian influenza, this year in the U.S. This fall, the pathogen was detected in five flocks, leading to the deaths of over two million birds. Although deadly to birds, the virus is not a significant health risk to humans.  

Major source of Iowa air pollution has operated without permit updates for decades


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | November 29, 2022

For decades, a large gas-powered dryer in Muscatine, Iowa, that processes sand that it sells has not obtained updated permits to be able to operate the dryer, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

Northern Filter Media, the company operating the gas-powered dryer, has been operating for over 100 years. In 1985, the company put in a new burner for the dryer, which was renovated in 2002, 2017, and 2020. 

Per the DNR, Northern Filter Media has operated the sand dryer unpermitted since its installation and the renovations. The DNR ordered the company a fine of $10,000. 

“This place has been there since 1914, and this is the first time this has come up,” said Vince Brown, a manager at the facility. “We don’t know what to do. We don’t know what the process is.”

In 2021, in an inspection of documents the DNR gathered of the Northern Filter Media, the department confirmed the facility is likely a “major source” of air pollutants following state rules and could deal with permit requirements based on Title V of the federal Clean Air Act.

90 percent of U.S. counties have experienced a natural disaster since 2011


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Grace Smith | November 17, 2022

90 percent of counties in the U.S. have experienced a wildfire, a hurricane, a flood, or another form of natural disaster, from 2011 to the end of 2021, per a report released on Nov. 16. The report also said that over 700 counties in the U.S. have encountered over five natural disasters. Five states have suffered 20 natural disasters since 2011. 

From 2011-2021, California had 25 federal disasters, the highest number in the country, which included numerous wildfires, a large number of earthquakes, and more. 58 counties in the state have had recent disasters, and Butte County received the most post-disaster financial assistance — over $183 million. The lowest number of federal disasters occurred in Nevada with three. 

Iowa had 21 total disasters, the fourth-highest number of natural disasters in the nation. Every county in the state experienced a natural disaster from 2011-2021. Iowa has received $717 million in post-disaster assistance and is still receiving aid for a storm in 1977.

These natural disasters have caused states and counties large amounts of money. Louisiana had the highest per capita support at $1,736 for each person. In addition, the median payout for all states in the U.S. was $97 per capita. In total, $91 billion had to be put toward post-disaster aid and assistance for states from 2011-2021. The states who needed the most financial support included New York, Texas, and Florida.

Rainfall caused drought to withdraw in some parts of Iowa


Drought
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 14, 2022

After a hot, dry summer and fall, drought conditions are retreating in most parts of Iowa. Last week, the Southern part of the state saw heavy rainfall, reducing drought conditions. The most rain seen was 4.3 inches with the lowest amount around 2 inches.  

The state had been in the worst drought in nine years and desperately needed rain, with northwest Iowa receiving the brunt of the effects. The rain missed this part of the state, not reviving any of the stress the drought has caused. Currently, two-thirds of the state is still suffering from the drought 

According to the Drought Monitor, above 10 percent of the state is listed as being in extreme drought or more severe. The area in extreme drought expands from Humboldt to Sioux City.  

One million more Iowa birds found with bird flu


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | November 10, 2022

Avian influenza, a deadly virus caused by infection, was confirmed in two more Iowa bird flocks, consisting of over one million egg-laying chickens in Wright County, per an Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship report on Monday. The bird flu was also detected in 17 birds in Louisa County.

Monday’s confirmation of the bird flu is Wright County’s second outbreak. On Oct. 31, 1.1 million egg-laying hens were infected with the flu. Four flocks in Iowa are now confirmed to have been infected with avian influenza. This year, 23 flocks have been affected by the bird flu. Over 15.4 million birds in Iowa have died from the bird flu or were killed to minimize infection, making Iowa the hardest-hit state by the bird flu than any other state this year.

“Migration is expected to continue for several more weeks and whether you have backyard birds or a commercial poultry farm, bolstering your biosecurity continues to be the best way to protect your flock from this disease,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said in a statement. “Our coordinated response team, comprised of state and federal professionals working with the affected producers, will continue to move swiftly to limit the spread of this virus.”’

End of harvest season is approaching as state experiences worst drought in nine years


Harvest
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | November 9, 2022

Harvest season is coming to an end in some parts of Iowa. Despite last week’s heavy rainfall, Northwest Iowa is almost done harvesting as that part of the state continues to face a lengthy drought.  

In total, around 90 percent of corn harvest has been completed while just under 100 percent of soybeans have been harvested. The almost complete harvest season is over a week ahead of schedule compared to the past five years.  

According to State Climatologist Justin Glisan, the heavy rainfall seen last week in south-central Iowa equaled over four inches with an inch of rain seen in the eastern part of the state.  

The rain was much needed as the state is the driest it has been in nine years, said the U.S. Drought Monitor. Northwestern Iowa, affected most by the drought, saw little to no rain.  

Fall is the ideal time to plant shade trees


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | November 3, 2022

With moderate temperatures and sufficient ground moisture, fall is a great time to plant shade trees, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said in a press release on Oct. 18. Planting in the fall gives trees extra growing time before hot summer days, and fall’s cooler temperatures allow trees to form their roots. 

“Properly planted trees will have a better opportunity for a long healthy life,” Iowa DNR district forester Mark Vitosh said. “Improperly planted trees can become stressed more easily or may look otherwise healthy, but then suddenly die in the first 10 to 20 years after planting.”

The Iowa DNR offers tips to keep shade trees healthy with a long life. 

  • Put additional soil far from the top of the root ball — the main mass of roots at the base of a plant — to identify the first primary lateral root before digging the hole.
  • The depth of the planting hole can be measured by the distance above the first lateral root to the bottom of the root ball. Health issues can arise if a hole is dug too deep. 
  • Remove roots growing around the root ball, as well as any roots on the bottom of the root ball. 
  • Dig the planting hole at least twice the width of the root ball. 
  • Use the soil from the initial hole to refill around the roots of the tree. 
  • Water the planting hole to settle the soil. Keep watering the expanding root system as the tree grows.