On Wednesday, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack signed two bills designed to improve and protect the state's waterways. The laws establish a water quality task force and fund numerous projects, including an $8 million effort to dredge and restore lakes.
Vilsack also vetoed a measure that would have restricted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' ability to regulate livestock confinement facilities, claiming the bill could have a negative impact on the environment.
Iowa Farm Bureau officials said they were disappointed that the governor vetoed the bill, which was designed to have elected officials make crucial policy decisions instead of the DNR. Noting that livestock production makes a significant contribution to the state's economy, yet is one of the most heavily regulated industries, Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Lang said, "Our livestock farmers need a fair playing field, not more roadblocks placed by arbitrary siting decisions of a single person. The DNR doesn't do this for any other industry."
The Iowa Environmental Council, however, was pleased with Vilsack's decision and efforts to protect Iowa's water quality.
Rich Leopold, Executive Director, Iowa Environmental Council: "Governor Vilsack has long been an advocate for clean water here and trying to do something and it seemed this year was the perfect year. The legislature, the leadership within the legislature felt an urgency, a need to do something."
Citing decades of research, a Des Moines Register study released this spring revealed that Iowa has some of the most severe water quality issues in the nation. The Environmental Council claims this week's action confirms that officials understand the gravity of the situation.
Rich Leopold, Executive Director, Iowa Environmental Council: "It's recognition by the government and legislators that something needs to be done, so we're really encouraged by the direction they're heading."
The Iowa Farm Bureau, however, was not encouraged by the policymakers' decisions and said it would be keenly interested in the positions taken by candidates in this year's elections.