Mussels will come to SL

Zebra mussels are infecting East and West Okoboji lakes. We can assume that if these lakes are covered, which they are, the other Iowa Great Lakes must also be infected. The boat traffic is just too common. Clear Lake is infested with the razor-sharp mussels worse than the Great Lakes, but not for long. Juvenile mussels were everywhere on Okoboji boat hoists.

Storm Lake will become infected with them at some point, unless we take serious action. There is no known way to get rid of the mussels, other than to completely kill off the lake with chemicals.

There is a known way to prevent them from entering a lake: Wash your boat before you enter Storm Lake.

We have suggested before that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources should protect one of its most important lakes — Storm Lake — from invasive species by installing cleaning stations near each boat ramp. IDNR has put up some signs around town but that’s it. Considering that Iowa has the 48th lowest per capita funding for natural resources, we should not be surprised that IDNR can’t get something going. It’s tough enough just keeping the state parks mowed.

Signs simply will not do.

Stupid boaters — and there are some — often think they are not the problem. They do not know about invasive species, they believe their boat cannot be infected or some just might not care. We must stop those boaters before launching an infected boat on Storm Lake.

Zebra mussels destroy beaches with their cutting shells. They crowd out other life in water bodies and can damp game fish populations. They can destroy recreational use of a lake.

We should at least have free boat cleaning facilities at the Storm Lake Marina, owned by IDNR and managed by the City of Storm Lake.

We would prefer that each boater could certify that his boat was cleaned before entering with something like a parking ramp ticket. If you don’t have the ticket you pay a boat traffic fine. We would find our cleaning stations plenty busy.

But we understand that lakes receive such a low priority in Iowa that we might have to resign ourselves to a zebra mussel infestation in Storm Lake. There is enough boat traffic between Storm Lake, the Iowa Great Lakes and Clear Lake to assure that it will happen. All we can do at this point is pray that boaters take the responsibility on themselves to clean their boats.

‘We’re not there yet’

It’s reassuring to know that someone in the House Republican Caucus has his head screwed on straight. We refer to Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who is pushing hard to pass a reasonable farm bill for the next five years. He said that he wanted to complete a new farm bill by this week. Lucas is categorically opposed, he said, to extending the current farm bill that has already been extended by a year. Listen what he told reporters at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, according to Politico:

“We’re not there yet. I am still hopeful. I am still enthusiastic. I am still trying. But we have to make progress this week.”

Lucas said that differences remain with the Senate on the commodities title. The chairman said he believes that a downward drift in corn prices “might make people a little more realistic looking down the road.

“Compare the price of corn now with two years ago, it’s a bit sobering. There were two different camps on how we should proceed and they were absolute. Corn is not only the biggest volume crop raised in this country, it is the crop that drives all other grain prices. … That means there’s a sense of urgency among people who might otherwise have said, ‘I don’t need all of the various features, I may not even need a farm bill. I’m taken care of.’ But now suddenly as the price of corn comes down?

“This is a body that tends to turn an hour into a day, a week into a month. This just needs to be done. Sometimes there is a little distance between the tractor and the hallways of Congress. It takes a while for communication to travel.”

He may be suggesting that hitching your star to a $40 billion cut in nutrition programs won’t fly in the Senate.

Many of the hard-right legislators who believe they were sent to Congress just to say no come from districts like ours that depend heavily on the farm bill as the safety net for our regional economy. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, may want to burn Obamacare and immigration reform but his constituents have convinced him to be constructive on farm legislation.

Yet, as this is written, there is no farm bill because the House will not assent to the Senate version that passed on a broad bipartisan basis. We should all wish Chairman Lucas well in herding frogs.