BV is losing the public

BY ART CULLEN

The public would appear to have made up its mind about the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties over nitrate pollution of the Raccoon River. The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll reported Sunday that 60% of those surveyed believe the water works was right to sue drainage districts in the three counties for discharging polluted water into the river.

It is virtually the same result the poll found a year ago.

Urban residents, small towners and even rural dwellers all show majority support for the water works position. This after a barrage of advertising in the Des Moines TV market sponsored by Farm Bureau, and a host of radio ads aiming to fire up rural residents against encroaching government.

Anyone can see how filthy Storm Lake is, how the Des Moines River near Humboldt is a mud flow, how shallow lakes in Northwest Iowa have eroded into duck marshes.

Anyone with eyes and a nose knows in his gut that Iowa has the dirtiest surface water in America. It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico. It is causing oxygen deprivation in Northwest Iowa glacial lakes. It has caused us to spend millions upon millions trying to clean up Storm Lake, the victim of more than a century of explosive soil erosion.

Everyone knows it’s not the city sewer plant causing the problem. And most of us recognize that this is not just nature at work busily releasing nitrates into the water. Ninety-two percent of surface water pollution comes from row crop production — an incontroverted fact from the court case.

What’s more, the public probably suspects that it should not cost billions of dollars to fix the problem. It doesn’t. The solution demands that we quit farming into the ditch and over the fenceline. If we left 10% of Iowa’s marginal land fallow the nitrate problem would disappear. Iowa State University research proves it.

However, Iowa’s political system is immune from such numbers. The Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors appears to have a religious tenet that drainage districts shall not be regulated. They are willing to gamble the future of agriculture and the county’s taxpayers on that belief. We think they should look for the first opening to settle the case, but they would rather spend our money on three law firms (in Storm Lake, Des Moines and Washington) without bothering to wonder how much it will cost.

To find that opening, a deal is required. That deal must include accountability: that agriculture will meet federal clean water guidelines within a certain period or agree to pay water works to replace its nitrate removal facility. That’s the problem with all the legislative talk. They want to throw money at the problem and wash their hands rather than arrive at a real solution. But the poll indicates that is not what the people of Iowa want.

State and federal governments have been throwing money at soil and water conservation since the Dust Bowl, yet the problem is getting worse. It’s because we are farming through the fencerows in a more intense fashion than ever. We allow no buffer, and in fact have methodically eliminated the buffer since 2009. Anyone living in Buena Vista County can see it. Even a county supervisor could, if he weren’t so afraid of agri-industry. Just drive over the Raccoon River. Someday, the politics will catch up to the people.

Grassley alternatives weak

Sen. Chuck Grassley is nothing more than a lapdog for the Republican Establishment, in the person of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has foreclosed the possibility of considering a Supreme Court nomination from President Obama because, as Grassley indicated, Obama has not been polite with Congress.

He is a doddering fool who needs to go. Three Democrats are in the race: State Sen. Robb Hogg of Cedar Rapids, Tom Fiegan of Clarence and Bob Krause of Fairfield. Patty Judge said she is considering joining the fray (heaven forbid, the only woman as vulgar as Donald Trump except for Joni Ernst, who ripped off Judge’s castration line). Iowa does not deserve the indignity of Patty Judge on a ticket again.

Hogg is the best choice, but he needs to energize his campaign and his message. Hogg recently wrote an essay in the Cedar Rapids Gazette where he says he can understand the water works, but that we all really need to work together on this over the years to figure it out. That would appear to be the Grassley position.

If you want to beat Chuck Grassley, go for broke. Offer an alternative. Get the voter’s attention. Terry Branstad is offering more boldness than Hogg on water quality. Hogg should demand that standards be enforced. He should be pushing for stream bank protection and 50-foot buffers. Show some guts, senator.

Or, maybe the Democrats do need Patty Judge. This just might be her year, what with The Donald and that other livestock cutter.