It’s just a jetty

BY ART CULLEN

Everyone who loves Storm Lake is no doubt delighted that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources next summer will rebuild the Big Island and Shorty’s Island (just off Lakeside). Lake denizens have been concerned about the islands’ decay for the better part of 25 years. Now, IDNR is doing something about it thanks to the long and productive partnership with local actors such as the Lake Improvement Association. And, department officials say they intend to keep the islands whole going forward, which is sort of a new way of thinking in Iowa — to take care of what you have.

It was in that spirit that the regional fisheries office in Lake View decided that restoring the Chautauqua Park jetty is of high priority. It is one of the most popular spots for shore anglers, but the jetty is sloughing into the lake against strong west winds. But nothing can be done because regional offices are not allowed to proceed with capital projects. How frustrating. We can build a four-way highway past Sac City, but we can’t fix the nose on our jetty with a few dump trucks of gravel.

Why?

Because Iowa devotes a pittance to our natural resources — 48th in per-capita funding out of the 50 states in general fund appropriations. You have heard it many times before — we have to beg every year in Des Moines to continue cleaning up Iowa’s lakes from years of siltation and pollution so that they may be suitable for fishing and recreation again. It’s embarrassing as well as frustrating. One year Gov. Terry Branstad tried to wipe out the entire fund.

It’s not IDNR’s fault. It is the fault of a state that fails to see environmental funding as a priority. When someone breaks an ankle or worse on that jagged jetty, don’t call city hall. Call your state legislators. Demand action.

Or sue.

That’s what the Des Moines Water Works did to catch everyone’s attention. The water utility sued Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties after years of frustration with inaction over water quality issues — like polluting the Raccoon River with nitrates from commercial fertilizer.

Now the legislature is paying attention. Representatives from both parties are talking about increasing the sales tax by one-eighth of a percentage point to raise more than $100 million annually for natural resources. Many of these politicians want to devote the proceeds entirely to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy — to pay farmers for conservation practices they have failed to adopt on their own.

Then what about the jetty? Or a better boat ramp at Storm Lake Marina? Or more support for county conservation boards, which operate many more acres of public areas than the state does?

If you are comfortable with our current level of funding, then what about that jetty? Why is it allowed to erode into the lake? Why were the islands treated with such neglect for so long? Why do more than 100 lakes wait for action until Storm Lake is done?

Clearly, Iowa does not support lakes and parks. How can it possibly play a role in improving water quality without an increase in the sales tax? It can’t. Our concern is that all the money will get scooped up for ag interests while the jetty goes naked yet another year. That would be the ultimate act of irresponsibility.

Clinton shows her chops

Iowa Democrats who are uncertain about Hillary Clinton should have tuned in to the Democratic presidential debate last weekend. Flanked by Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, Clinton put on a lecture in foreign policy that should seal the decision if this is indeed an election about national security. She would welcome the opportunity to chew up and spit out Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. Few people in the world understand the nuances of world affairs as well as Clinton, obviously, from her experiences as First Lady, US Senator from New York and Secretary of State.

She played softball with Sanders and O’Malley in front of ABC News moderators. Every time they criticized her she gave them a gentle swat across the brow — Sanders voted to bomb Libya, and O’Malley supported her for President until he didn’t. Multiply that times 100 and add fire, and you can approximate what any of these three Republican lightweights have coming their way. Hers will not be a campaign of hope and change, it will be of fire and brimstone waged through a huge war chest with a goal of incinerating her opponent.

Those who hate her so badly they cannot see her do so at their own peril. That other Democrat they love to hate, Barack Obama, was clear-headed enough to understand her and dispatch her in Iowa. Sanders and O’Malley are not prepared to handle her, and she hasn’t even taken off the gloves. If she gets Cruz, Rubio or Trump in a debate over Syria, Russia and Iran, they will be left sputtering. She is the queen of realpolitik cast against ideologues whose only answer is to throw more bombs around. It is her race to lose.