In late summer, I would swim and stream-walk a small section of the Raccoon River. While sedimented for decades now, the water was clear in the shallows. For a few years now, the water is pea-green from edge-to-edge. For decades and worse now, this water has strongly contributed to a vast hypoxia zone in the Gulf.

In the 1980s, I wrote about the wisdom of the river, focusing on the Des Moines River as a living, very open metaphor for the essential streaming dynamic of the universe that is within us as well in the streaming of our body metabolism and thought.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lance Kinseth, The Colors Of Water, 2017

Iowa Ag = Assault On Landscape

WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, Iowa Ag is neither Aldo Leopoldian nor spiritual stewardship.

It’s industrial, and it is degrading land and water quality at a rapid pace.

The basic infrastructure of modern Iowa farming is an industrial model that allows the rapid release of both soil and chemical applications that pollute water and create costly public health problems.  Rather than alter the industrial model, Iowa Ag seeks public $$$ to mitigate the damage.  As an industrial process, it is impossible for any meaningful mitigation techniques to help recover landscape quality.   And there will not be any legislative or self-restriction on chemical application and no uniform statewide effort to minimize soil loss and resistance to any legislative regulation or explicit monitoring of damage.  Use of fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides can be anticipated to increase in the future. 

There is no willingness to pay for any damage and there is resistance to monitoring of soil and chemical release from specific properties.  Even with public funding, the level of mitigation compliance can be expected to be resisted by landowners as has always been the case.  Even with decades of conservation efforts and billions $$$ public funding, compliance has been minimal.  For decades, Iowa Ag has resisted legislative efforts to mitigate water pollution and soil loss from farm runoff, with strategies such as field edge buffer zones.

And so, an industry that damages a vast proportion of the Iowa landscape generates only 10% of GDP contributes to 90% of water quality issues.  In the Iowa economy, nearly 91 cents of every dollar generated comes from businesses other than agriculture.  And while Iowa is often described as a farm state, 98% of Iowans are not employed in agriculture.  Water treatment is regulated and publicly funded, but water damage is void of any responsibility.  This is not only poor citizenship by Iowa agriculturalists, but also dismal stewardship.  Iowa Ag lives off the thousands-years-old “fat” of the land, taking rather than sustaining, to the point of assaulting/abusing perhaps the richest soil quality in Earth with no consequences.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ignorance About Our Own Landscape

Your 2 Cents’ Worth excerpts, Part 7 [various readers submissions/ Des Moines Register]:


Californians know and appreciate their beaches, Vermonters know and appreciate their forests, but most Iowans still don’t know what a prairie is, even though prairies covered 85% of Iowa.
There is a direct connection between our ignorance about our own landscape and our filthy water.


My new weight-loss strategy is based on Iowa’s farm pollution reduction strategy.  So I have no goal weight and no requirements or deadlines, and I’ll rarely weigh myself, but occasionally, If I’m paid enough, I’ll eat a little less.


China has some of the most polluted air and water in the world.  Terry Branstad [ Donald Trump’s choice for ambassador to  China and longstanding governor of Iowa who has ] should feel right at home.


As I see it, the two pipelines area a security threat with hundreds of miles of them left unguarded.  A worst-case scenario would be if one exploded under the Missouri River, ruining hundreds of municipal water supplies.  Many other security threats are all around.  Cheer up, it’s bound to get worse.

The news that the Iowa pipeline spill was “only” 46,380 gallons instead of 138.000 gallons is really comforting finding out that a murdered loved one was “only” shot twice, instead of five times. [Magellan diesel leak in Iowa]

[The strong public concern that pipelines will leak are dismissed by the pipeline industry.   The largest national controversy over pipelines that could degrade water quality involves the Dakota Access pipeline.  The parent pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners / Sunoco have reported discharges to the federal government of nearly 200,000 gallons of oil across 42 spills.]

When Terry Branstad moves to Beijing, China as ambassador, he will get to experience the “Ghost of Iowa Yet to Come” due to his policies here while Governor.  The Beijing air is often unsafe to breathe and the tap water is unsafe to drink because of pollution. Even some bottled water brands can’t be trusted as there are few regulations and enforcement is minimal.


I was flabbergasted when I found out that people earning $87,000 a year got welfare.  This is ridiculous.  Not only do they think that they deserve it, they rail against the very people who need it.  That would be the elderly, poor, handicapped and children.  You know who these freeloaders are?  Farmers. 

[Like most of the businesses on this welfare, agricultural groups also legislate protection against damages, and complain when the public is bothered that it has to pay to clean their messes up.]


Friday, February 3, 2017

Increasing Major Threats To Clean Iowa Water For 2017

Walnut Creek, Des Moines, 1/2017

Iowa Supreme Court decision:  Des Moines Water Works cannot sue another state body period, so no state legal pressure on farm chemical discharge.  Next up, beyond the state of Iowa, federal court arguments on clean water impact of water districts on water pollution without regulation by DMWW. Given coming federal departmental de-regulation as environmental policy that enhances business [SEE BELOW], any governmental mechanisms to monitor and require any environmental value outweighing business values would largely nix any legal DMWW gain.

Can you imagine how insensitive federal lawmakers would be regarding toxic agricultural runoff after this? Toxic chemicals and waste dumping as “excessive regulation:” U.S. House of Representatives voted to overturn a rule to prohibit dumping of coal mining wastes in nearby streams, seeing this rule as excessive regulation.  This is essentially regulation of streams and the environment that has been proven for decades to be toxic to the environment and, in turn, to human populations.  So more of this type of de-regulation to expand.

U.S. Supreme Court: “Waters Of America” case likely to be heard soon to either support or overturn U. S. EPA ruling that would require land owners, ranging from farmers to golf courses, to obtain a permit to apply chemicals to land that would discharge into waters.  Trump’s pick for U.S. Supreme Court may be in place to participate in this decision, and that likely means landowners rights trump public rights.

Federal environmental de-regulation: U.S. Federal Departments of Energy and Interior and EPA will be directed by new Trump appointees, with current nominations having histories of opposing these agencies to the point of wanting to abolish them, and explicitly stating for sure that they want to undue restrictions ASAP.  The overall theme is one of de-regulation that lessens both responsibility and cost for damage to water quality.  There will also be a focus on reducing monitoring because it fosters calls for regulation.  The focus in business ann this ideological approach is self-regulation and it is evident how that means no regulation.

Pipeline expansion: Trump’s executive presidential memorandum  to approve and expand oil pipeline infrastructure:  (a) directing the secretary of the Army to review and approve completion the Dakota Access Pipeline that will be capable of pumping one billion gallons of toxic waste at any one time through it’s large 30” pipes over 1,172 miles and (b) to encourage the Keystone XL pipeline to reapply after being nixed by Obama. The Magellan Midstream Partners 12 “ wide diesel pipeline in Worth County, Iowa recently ruptured releasing 46,830 gallons.

Selling federal land:  U. S. House of Representatives first passed a new rule package with one of the new rules declaring “lands are worthless.”  For example, this will allow a new bill, H.R. 621 to sell 3.2 million acres of public land as “worthless” to generate new $$$ for government.  Public lands including formal national parks and refuges and so forth are estimated to be worth mucho-billions.  While public lands such parks and refuges and national forests and grasslands will not be sold, we can expect more opening of such lands for leased use as well as a lessening of now restricted activities in such landscapes.

 2017 State of Iowa Budget cuts affecting environment: EXAMPLES: Cuts in Department of Energy and Department of Natural Resources (monitors toxic spills) and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Lands Stewardship (that is tries to implement an Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy).  

A lower incoming statewide tax base will promote more farm production to sustain.  Trump’s anticipated taxes on foreign imports will likely reduce Iowa farm exports as a foreign reaction, and this will further reduce statewide tax contributions from agriculture.

Other major factors are described in these recent Iowa Water posts:
The Pending Trifecta of Disaster For Iowa Water Quality 11/28/16, and

Iowa Water Stats of Interest 12/16/16