Easier this year

Looking from the high bank along Sunset Park on Sunday we could see rocks six to 10 feet out from shore beneath the water. It was crystal clear. We have lived in Storm Lake most of our lives and have never seen the lake so clear as we have over the past five years or so. Dredging is making a huge impact on water quality in what was among the most turbid lakes in Iowa.

We are greatly relieved, then, that the Iowa Legislature apparently has agreed to appropriate $9.6 million next year without so much as a kerfuffle.

It has not always been so.

Gov. Tom Vilsack tried to veto funding for lake dredging way back when.

Last year Gov. Terry Branstad tried to wipe it out.

Each time, Storm Lake raised enough of a ruckus to keep the money flowing.

This year (keep your fingers crossed) has been a breeze by comparison.

 Yes, it is an election year. Things get easier. More a factor is the fact that people all over Iowa are waking up to the idea that we do not have to live with the most polluted surface waters in America. We can change the way we treat natural resources.

Storm Lake is the leader by example.

In 1990 a major watershed protection effort was launched. Farmers were convinced to move toward less tillage, more grass strips and reduced soil erosion leading to the lake. Sediment still runs off to Powell Creek and eventually to Little Storm Lake, but the impacts are not as severe as they were before 1990. Nearly 80% of the watershed is in some sort of conservation practice, including no-till.

Little Storm Lake has been redesigned to prevent mud from reaching Big Storm Lake. That work was accomplished by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with Ducks Unlimited.

The Lake Preservation Association, City of Storm Lake, City of Lakeside and Buena Vista County have contributed money and expertise in partnership with IDNR to dredge the lake. It is a great example of multi-agency collaboration with the private sector.

Storm Lake was inspired by the good work on Five Island Lake at Emmetsburg, where local citizens took charge of the state-owned lake and contributed their own property taxes to help clean it up. After Storm Lake jumped aboard, Clear Lake wanted a seat. Now the Iowa Great Lakes are benefiting from restoration projects.

Storm Lake and Emmetsburg proved to other, more influential communities that lake restoration is politically viable.

As always, our profound thanks go to State Rep. Dan Huseman, R-Aurelia, for always looking out for our natural resources. Huseman co-chairs an appropriations subcommittee that controls lake restoration funding. He helps make other legislators comfortable with large appropriations for natural resources because he is a trusted conservative who knows a good deal when he sees one.

Credit also goes to IDNR Director Chuck Gipp for continuing to press the Branstad Administration for cleaner lakes.


Act of love

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of George W., recently referred to an undocumented immigrant sneaking across the border from Mexico to feed his children as “an act of love.” Many conservatives were aghast. The comment will not win him much love with the right wing of the Iowa Republican Party, which plays an outsize role in nominating presidential candidates.

The Bushes never were immigrant haters. Jeb is married to a Hispanic, and himself is a fluent Spanish speaker. George W. urged compassion for immigrants dying in the desert.

If you view Jeb’s comments outside a political context — which is nearly impossible — they make perfect sense. Why would a man swim across the Rio Grande River and traverse through a desert in search of work to support his children? Love is the only explanation.

Love hasn’t much to do with politics.

They booed Bush’s comments at a big conservative rally over the weekend after Donald Trump made fun of him. Rand Paul called his comments “inarticulate.”

Bush thought things through before he said it. Before he uttered the word “love,” he made mention that he knew the tapes were rolling. So he threw caution to the wind, and possibly his own ambitions if he has them.

Bush asks that we look at undocumented immigrants as real people with emotions: love for family, fear of the unknown, sorrow in separation and anger in disenfranchisement. Treat them as people first, and we might take a different tack on our politics.