The people of Iowa, especially the Storm Lakers, pay great attention to water quality. When dead fish started washing up on shore last week, locals immediately started contacting us via email and text messages and posting alerts on social media. People wanted immediate answers. A swimmer has just died of a brain-eating amoeba in an Iowa lake, nearly every beach in the state is flagged with bacteria warnings, and the stench of vegetative overgrowth and blue-green algae l last year is cold in the nostrils.
Luckily, Ben Wallace, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources from Lake View, immediately took care of the matter. Preliminary reports indicate that mainly carp, and only a few catfish and bass, were among the dead. Tests will be carried out, but it is believed to be the result of a disease affecting carp specifically. This could be nature’s way of rebalancing the lake’s ecosystem.
In this case, no apparent reason for alarm but vigilance. On that front, you don’t have to worry. When foam pours out of a storm drain, the town hall’s phone lines burn.
People are excited about water, and they should be.
Storm Lake is under water conservation orders amid a drought and failing wells. People are just starting to learn about “eternal chemicals” in their drinking water. Reports of ubiquitous microplastics in the supposedly pristine Boundary Waters paddling area are shocking. The Raccoon River is listed among the most endangered in America – and if the raccoon is, then the Little Sioux and Des Moines and Cedar and Rock and…
Iowans are careful.
All the polls over the years tell us that water quality is a pressing concern. Actual votes confirm this. Here, voters overwhelmingly supported restoring the lake in a bond election. In 2010, 63% of voters approved a state constitutional amendment dedicating a stream of sales tax funding to a permanent fund for water quality and outdoor recreation. (It was the same year that voters also ousted three Iowa Supreme Court justices for endorsing same-sex marriage, so the contrast is remarkable.) More than 60% of Iowans agreed with the position. of Des Moines Water Works that it should not have to pay for chronic pollution. of the Raccoon River.
Last year, the Iowa State University Farm and Rural Life Poll showed that 60% of rural residents surveyed said funds should go to this account approved by voters and enshrined in the Constitution.
Yet the legislator refused to allocate a penny to this account, ignoring the direct will of the voters. It’s a weird disconnect. Water quality is high on our radar, but the majority of Republicans controlling the Statehouse agenda apparently don’t care less.
The list of altered waters is growing. Iowa has one of the most polluted surface waters in America. Riverbank erosion worsens with improved drainage systems moving torrents of water to rivers during extreme rains. We have more manure than we can handle, we put cattle near a trout stream, and we suck up the Dakota aquifer. We apply anhydrous ammonia to pig manure. People are aware of all this. They asked for action to be taken. What do we get? A closed MNR office in Storm Lake that once housed a water quality specialist. We don’t test all water systems for “eternal chemicals” because when we do, we find them like we did in Sioux Rapids and Spencer.
Voters are concerned about inflation, of course. Rural voters are concerned about community vitality and education. They are also aware that their water could kill them, and when given the opportunity to vote directly on this issue, they will take clean water every time.
Dead carp may be a net plus for Storm Lake, we don’t know. We’re glad Wallace is on stage. The local reaction was quick and revealing. We know people here care about this lake as much as anything else, and the political system should reflect that. Politicians have gotten away with ignoring voters for 12 years. Given the magnitude of the concerns about this lake, you would think the state would respond with a body of clean water and healthy lakes. It’s hard to understand why we dropped Iowa so short when the public demands better.