Storm Lake Times Pilot

Editorial: Dire straits

Blue-green algae covers the water in a Storm Lake cove near the Kiwanis sailing dock on Monday, July 19, 2021. (Photos by Jake Kurtz)

Over half of Iowa’s water bodies (rivers and lakes) are “impaired” by pollution, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources — including Storm Lake, Black Hawk Lake, the Little Sioux River and the Raccoon River. All of them are flagged for e coli bacteria. The Little Sioux and Raccoon additionally suffer from low levels of macroinvertebrates, crucial to a river ecosystem and an overall indicator of health.

Little wonder why. It was also reported last week that 265,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen fertilizer flowed into the Nishnabotna River near Red Oak. It killed the fish in a 50-mile stretch of the river. That was an accident. It is no accident that we apply about 30% more nitrogen than our crops can consume, and the result is polluted lakes and rivers among the worst in America. The livestock confinement coordinator was line-itemed out of the budget awhile back. The legislature cut off funds for water-quality monitoring.

One more story from last week: The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that state parks need $100 million in repairs that are being put off. Not only is accessibility an issue, but beams are rotting and roofs are caving in on state buildings across Iowa’s parks. DNR Director Kayla Lyon asked for no additional funding. How could you when the governor is trying to eliminate the income tax?

The Storm Lake Marina, owned by IDNR, is a shambles from neglect. What should be a nice amenity and revenue source is growing weeds while the state tries to step away from its basic responsibilities.

“We’re in dire straits. Everybody is afraid to talk. Nobody wants to say a word because you’ll get your head handed to you,” David Downing, who retired in January as manager of park assets, told The Gazette.

That certainly rings true around here.

One reason young people leave Iowa is its lack of recreational opportunities. Our rivers are sewage ditches delivering poison to the Gulf of Mexico. Our parks are falling apart. How are you supposed to keep a boat at the marina so you can go fishing? These are basic state responsibilities going unmet by design. IDNR is not going to get in the way of agri-industry, and if you’re going to slash taxes you have to start slashing spending on things that you don’t care about, like Storm Lake. Drink up, it is what we vote for.

Are they stoned, or what?

The legislature still has not approved K-12 school funding, several weeks past its own self-imposed deadline. Local school boards have a hard time meeting their budget deadlines because of legislative incompetence. Instead of dealing with hard issues, the House passed a bill that would make certain nobody can get a buzz from hemp. We suppose it will sail through the Senate and become law with the governor’s approval.

The bill will reduce the amount of allowable THC, the compound that gets you high, from 10 milligrams to four in products that are sold legally under terms of the 2018 farm bill. Iowans may legally purchase gummies and drinks with THC in them derived from hemp. Cutting the level of THC by more than half will make the products more expensive and eventually drive them out of the market, according to Iowa hemp farmers who urged legislators to back off. Of course, that is the whole point: to kill the product which is legal under federal law.

Iowans are voting with their pocketbooks. The hemp products are popular, so much that it scares the state liquor monopoly and associated corporate interests. So if people can’t get their THC legally, they will hop over the border into Missouri or Illinois, and soon in Minnesota, where marijuana has been legalized. Or they will buy from the black market. A strong majority of Iowans in polls say they favor legalizing cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes. Gov. Kim Reynolds says never on her watch.

You can get as drunk as you would like while smoking at the casino, the legislature has decided, because the state is taking its cut. It is bewildering, then, why the state would not want to create a similar monopoly over cannabis, tax it blue, restrict it to adults, sell it only where liquor is sold.

It’s silly and a waste of time, when the legislature can’t even come up with a school budget, to be worrying about somebody getting stoned while watching game show reruns. The law should be changed to make certain these products are not sold to minors, and are clearly labeled as such. Otherwise, leave it alone. We have bigger issues to address, like the state education budget or the pathetic state of our parks. If we need the revenue, the states that have legalized weed are collecting significant sums from Iowans already at Moline and East Dubuque. People have been smoking pot in Iowa since before Columbus landed his boat. It’s high time we dealt with it responsibly: legal, regulated and taxed.

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