Monday, November 19, 2007

Iowa's Dirty Secret

Since moving to Iowa City three months ago, I've taken to jogging once in awhile along the Iowa River. There are some paths through what the city calls "parks" (I'd call it open lawn with baseball fields and a scattering of trees) briefly surrounding a dark and slow moving river.

The Iowa River is a major tributary of the mighty Mississippi. Stretching over 300 miles the river flows southeast from Belmond, IA through the towns of Iowa Falls, Steamboat Rock and down into Iowa City by the University of Iowa campus. There are two dams along the way, the larger of the two in Coralville, just a few miles north of Iowa City, and a smaller lowhead dam along downtown Iowa City.

But while Presidential Campaigns bustle about the state, a river that centuries ago flowed clear and chock full of northern pike, small and large mouth bass, crappie, walleye and flathead catfish, is now close to death. The American Rivers organization has rated the Iowa River as the #3 most endangered river in North America. Why? Because the state EPA fails to enforce the regulations that are known as the Clean Water Act. Not only does it fail to meet EPA standards (which have been regularly downgraded by the Bush administration over the past 7 years)along 40% of its length but there is no sign of action to change it.
Unfortunately, the state of Iowa trails far behind the rest of the country in implementing and enforcing the federal Clean Water Act. Unless the state wants water quality in the Iowa and other rivers to deteriorate even further, Iowa must adequately implement key provisions of the Clean Water Act and provide its Department of Natural Resources sufficient funding to enforce these regulations.

A host of ancient factories up in Cedar Rapids are also blamed for dumping tons of waste into the river. Plus, the millions of tons of agricultural waste dumped into the river every year keeps it dark and green with pollutants and toxins.

There are plenty of small community cleanup projects every year, but these are not the type of cleanup that the Iowa River needs. If Iowa wants to get serious about cleaning up its river it should think not just about what it can pull out of the river, but about what it's dumping into it.

Checkout American Rivers list of other endangered rivers. Is one of your's on the list?

1 comment:

Rickyjo said...

I lived in Chrystal Lake - a 700 acre lake( where the Iowa river starts) for 3 years. It doesn't start anywhere near Belmond: (unless you call 35 miles "near Belmond")