Grassley supports Romney, but not his stance on wind energy


Photo by IowaPolitics.com, Flickr.

Senator Chuck Grassley objects to Mitt Romney’s stance on federal tax incentives for wind energy.

Despite endorsing the presidential candidate, Grassley has expressed frustration over Romney’s plans to let the tax incentives expire. Currently, wind farms receive 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.

Both Romney’s position and Congress’ continued inaction in extending the tax incentives have already led to layoff in the U.S. wind industry manufacturing sector.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Low water levels force power plant to dredge Cedar River


Photo by NRCgov, Flickr.

Two days ago we reported that low stream flows are negatively impacting water recreation in Iowa. The low water levels are also forcing the Duane Arnold Energy Center nuclear power plant to dredge a portion of the Cedar River.

The power plant uses water from the Cedar River to cool steam after it has been used to generate electricity. Without the water, the power plant would not be able to operate.

If the Cedar River’s water levels get too low, there’s a chance that the power plant would have to temporarily shut down.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Low stream flows impact water recreation across Iowa


Photo by Sara Cady, Flickr.

The drought has led to low stream flows in Iowa. As a result, water recreation has been limited in many parts of the state.

Lots of Iowa’s rivers are so low that paddlers find their vessels stuck on shoals far more often than most years. Additionally, some companies that rent out tubes, canoes and kayaks have had to curtail their business due to the low stream flows.

Barges in the lower Mississippi River have not suffered too much from the low stream flows, but they have had to lighten their loads to lower the risk of hitting shoals.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Gov. Branstad doesn’t want to change ethanol production


Governor Terry Branstad. Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr.

A week ago we reported that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack does not want ethanol production to decline as a result of the drought.

Now Governor Terry Branstad has also revealed his support for not changing this year’s ethanol production goals.

This is bad news for livestock producers who want a reduction in ethanol production in order to help lower the current feed prices.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Marion explores renewable energy option


Waste-to-energy power plant in Minnesota. Photo by Ruin Raider, Flickr.

Marion, IA is looking more into the possibility of developing a municipal utility that uses renewable energy.

In May, the Marion City Council hired a consulting firm to assess the feasibility of creating a municipal utility.

The end goal is for the city to use a system that turns solid waste to gas, which can then be converted to energy. The city’s current energy provider, Alliant, will likely challenge these plans.

Additionally, this would be the first city to use this particular waste-to-energy technology, and there are questions about if the system can adequately meet Marion’s energy needs.

Read more from The Gazette here.

EPA calls on Iowa DNR to improve livestock regulations


Photo by Todd Ehlers, Flickr.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to tighten up their regulations of manure discharge at livestock confinement operations.

The EPA was critical of the Iowa DNR’s inability to properly and quickly penalize livestock facilities that violated the Clean Water Act.

Because of this, the Iowa DNR will have to propose a plan for how they will fix their current issues.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Hot and dry weather hurts Iowa’s crops


Photo by NewsHour, Flickr.

Our recent hot and dry weather has not been kind to Iowa’s crops.

More than sixteen percent of Iowa’s corn crop has already silked, which is about two weeks ahead of schedule. Similarly, twenty-six percent of the soybean crop has bloomed, compared to the five-year average of fifteen percent at this time.

The percentages of crops rated as good or excellent (the scale goes: poor, fair, good, excellent) is the lowest since 2006.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Iowa Flood Center radar remains safe from landfill fire


Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Flickr.

Researchers at the Iowa Flood Center are crossing their fingers that the Iowa City Landfill fire wont affect one of their sensors.

One of their mobile weather radar units is located at the landfill. So far it has avoided damage, but the Iowa Flood Center engineers will continue to monitor the situation closely. The radar provides rainfall intensity data for the Clear Creek watershed.

The Iowa Flood Center plans to clean the radar once the fire is extinguished.

Read more about the radar from the Iowa Flood Center’s website here.

Read a question and answer interview about the Iowa City landfill here. The interview explains the environmental concerns involved, and why it might be best to let the fire extinguish on its own.

The Farmer’s Table brings local farmers and consumers together


Photo by alice_henneman, Flickr.

A monthly dinner event brings Iowans closer to the farmers producing their food.

These dinners, known as The Farmer’s Table, are hosted by Chris Grebner – a personal chef in the Iowa City area. At the dinners, Grebner uses local food to cook a meal for about twenty people at a local farm.

This way, the attendees can meet and talk to the people who produce their food, while enjoying the product.

Read more about these special dinners from The Gazette here.

Check out The Farmer’s Table website here.

Iowa’s state parks get a makeover


Lake MacBride State Park. Photo by Macomb Paynes, Flickr.

A boost in funding will make a noticeable difference in Iowa’s state parks this year.

In 2011, budget cuts led to the elimination of maintenance workers at the parks. Because of this, the parks’ quality suffered, leading many park goers to complain about unkempt lawns.

As recently as 2008, there were 325 seasonal maintenance workers in Iowa. That number dropped to 85 last year. Largely because of the complaints, the seasonal maintenance staff will increase to about 175 by the fall.

The new state budget will also add a half million dollars towards maintenance, but most of that money will go towards pay raises.

Read more from The Gazette here.