Culver Signs Surface Water Protection Act

Iowa governor signs legislation aimed at improving water quality, but now the real work begins.

On April 3, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver signed the House File 2400, the Iowa Surface Water Protection Act, into law. The measure is the result of more than two years of study and work by the Iowa Watershed Quality Planning Task Force. Now the real work of assessing and improving Iowa's water quality begins.

Rick Robinson, environmental policy adviser for the Iowa Farm Bureau, was a member of the task force. "We know farmers and all Iowans want to see improved water quality throughout our state, but it will take a lot more on-the-ground assessment, monitoring and education to bring all citizens together to see real improvements," he says. "A crucial component of this plan is the Water Resources Coordinating Council, and we are all excited that the Governor's office will have direct oversight of the group, which is integral to Iowa's watershed improvement success."

In addition to Gov. Culver's participation, the Water Resources Coordinating Council will coordinate at least 12 state agencies, including members from the Iowa Soil Conservation Division of the Department of Agriculture, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Homeland Security, Iowa Department of Transportation and Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The council's job will be to coordinate plans and resources to assess Iowa's water resources and developing a marketing campaign to educate and engage Iowans on water quality.

Iowa Department of Agriculture fits in

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey issued the following statement last week, commenting on Gov. Culver's signing of the new legislation, which puts into law the recommendations of the Watershed Quality Planning Task Force.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's Division of Soil Conservation was a member of the Watershed Quality Planning Task Force. The division of soil conservation is responsible for a wide variety of soil and water quality conservation programs and assists the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state.

Northey points out that HF 2400 includes a number of provisions designed to protect water quality in Iowa. The legislation calls for:

* Creation of a Water Resource Coordinating Council. The council will be in the Governor's office and its main job is to coordinate the management of Iowa's water resources. The council will include a wide variety of groups, including the state secretary of agriculture and the director of the division of soil conservation at IDALS.
* Support for a Water Quality Research and Marketing Campaign. Purpose of the campaign is to educate Iowans about the need to take personal responsibility for water quality in their local watershed.
* Larger Watershed Assessment, Planning, Prioritization and Implementation. This effort will look at regional watersheds in the state.
* Smaller Watershed Assessment, Planning, Prioritization and Implementation. This effort will look at local, community-based, sub-watershed improvement plans.
* Support for Smaller Watershed Monitoring and Measurement. Purpose is to help communities with monitoring and measurement of subwatersheds.
* Assess and Prioritize Wastewater and Stormwater Treatment Infrastructure. The goal is to find which methods and systems present the greatest level of risk to water quality and health of residents.

Northey's comment regarding HF 2400

"Improving water quality is central to the work at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship," says Northey. "I looking forward to working with the governor's office and other council members to continue to advance this important issue and to better coordinate our efforts to improve water quality in this state. I thank the legislature and Gov. Culver for providing strong, bipartisan leadership to get this legislation passed.

"The Council has the potential to help the wide variety of groups that are focused on improving water quality in the state work together better and avoid duplication that can result from a lack of coordination."

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