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Floods Wash Away Top Soil

posted on August 1, 2008

So far, Congress' response to record gasoline prices has been full of high-octane rhetoric and low-energy results.

Dozens of proposals have been considered and fell victim to partisan assaults. Among them were measures to make energy price gouging a federal crime, to curb oil market speculation, to extend tax credits for wind and solar energy projects, to tax the windfall profits of the largest oil companies, to subject the OPEC oil cartel to U.S. antitrust laws, to release oil from the government emergency stockpile and to spur nuclear energy development and the use of coal as a motor fuel. All of the measures failed, largely, along party lines.

And without passing any meaningful response to the nation's energy predicament, lawmakers adjourned Friday for their five-week summer hiatus. But not before Senator Charles Grassley railed against Congressional inaction on relief for Midwest disaster victims.

Late Thursday night and again on Friday, the Iowa Republican asked the Senate to consider his Disaster Tax Relief Bill. The measure would provide assistance to families and businesses in 10 Midwestern states damaged by deadly storms and floods. But Grassley's request was rejected.

Torrential rains took their toll on Midwestern agriculture as well. While crops may not have been damaged as much as initially estimated, data released this week in Grassley's home state of Iowa revealed the loss of something much more important.

Floods Wash Away Top Soil Flooding that affected much of the Midwest this spring not only damaged crops but also washed away some of the regions most valuable resource… Soil. This week, the Iowa Department of Agriculture released estimates that nearly 2.3 million acres within the state suffered severe top soil erosion, of about 20 tons per acre. The agency also estimates that the flooding caused $40 million in damage to terraces, sediment control basins, and other conservation practices within the state.

Further north, the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service in Madison estimates flooding in Wisconsin caused $2.8 million in damage to conservation structures such as dams and levees. Conservation specialists in the dairy state had expected to see more erosion but with more acres in hay and pasture, there are fewer acres at risk.

The erosion of valuable top soil also is an issue downstream. On Monday, the EPA announced that the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the second largest on record at 8,000 square miles.

The dead zone, where oxygen levels are too low to support marine life, is caused by nitrogen and phosphorous pollution that flows into the gulf. Flooding this year may have been a contributor to the dead zone's size.

Environmental groups in nine states this week again petitioned the federal government to set and enforce pollution standards in the Mississippi River basin and Gulf of Mexico.

Tags: conservation crops erosion floods Iowa-storms-08 news storms water