DES MOINES — The Iowa Soil and Water Future Task Force, a group created by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and part of the work of the Capital Crossroads community vision plan, has issued its Strategic Direction, Implementation, Recommendations report.
The Iowa Environmental Council, a participant in the group, issued the following statement Friday in response to the Task Force’s recommendations:
“We commend the final report’s call to significantly expand water quality efforts in the state. Overall, the Council strongly supports the report’s recommendations, many of which reflect the priorities and positions the Council shared during the stakeholder meetings. This includes an emphasis on the importance of adopting and implementing a watershed approach in Iowa.
“Other recommendations that we are also especially pleased to see include:
- Recognizing the need for significant, long-term funding at a greater magnitude of scale than we have yet seen applied to these resources. The Council’s preferred solution for this remains the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. The Trust Fund provides a dedicated, constitutionally protected funding stream that includes a balanced allocation formula that has been widely supported by stakeholders and the public, and that would begin generating funds immediately upon enactment.
- Creating a ‘culture of measurement’ with a transparent, coordinated monitoring and data collection network to enable progress to be quantified and adaptive management employed.
Developing an implementation plan for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy that includes a timeline and benchmarks to track progress, and growing an effective infrastructure for technical advisors to assist farmers and watershed groups.
- Supporting the role of Watershed Management Authorities (WMAs) as valuable leaders that bring stakeholders and agencies together at the local level for watershed planning.
- Emphasizing that public investments should be directed to practices that bring multiple and/or significant benefits, and offer the best return on public and private resources.
- Acknowledging the key role of soil health in improving water quality by adding the word ‘Soil’ to the title of the task force report and mentioning the importance of soil health in several report recommendations.
- Improving policy alignment for soil and water health at the local, state and federal level.
- Acknowledging that more directive approaches will be needed if voluntary efforts do not adequately ramp up to show meaningful progress towards nutrient reduction strategy targets.
- Affirming the value of targeting resources to watersheds of greatest need, while also balancing those resources with watersheds that are ready-for-action.
- Continuing to engage the private sector in water quality efforts to supplement public sector resources.
“The recommendations include but do not endorse the recently announced SAVE Initiative, along with other funding options for consideration. While the Council appreciates that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recognizes the need for significant long-term, sustainable funding for water quality – as well as education infrastructure – we have serious concerns about the SAVE Initiative.
“Per the details currently available, among our chief concerns is the diversion itself, the precedent it sets, and how funds would be allocated. For these reasons, the Council will continue to advocate for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund – a dedicated, constitutionally protected funding stream with an established allocation formula to support Iowa’s diverse natural resources.
“The Council appreciates the opportunity to have been a part of this task force. We applaud the recognition that protecting our water and soil quality is important to Iowans’ health and quality of life, creates thousands of jobs, and increases the productivity and efficiency of Iowa’s agriculture. We believe the final report represents a step forward for the State of Iowa, and look forward to continued collaboration.”