In Iowa, Environmental Groups File Lawsuit, and ask Court to Force Famers to cut Fertilizer Runoff

Donnelle Eller reported last week at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Two environmental groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday, asking a court to force farmers to cut fertilizer runoff they say is hurting the Raccoon River watershed and water Des Moines residents drink.

“Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch also want to stop producers from building or expanding pig, cattle and other livestock operations in the Raccoon River watershed until a mandatory nutrient reduction plan is in place.

“They’ve sued the state natural resources and agriculture departments, their leaders, and two state environmental boards and their members.”

The Register article noted that, “Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, said his group is disappointed ‘another potentially divisive lawsuit is being filed by those opposed to agriculture in Iowa.’

“‘Lawsuits do absolutely nothing to improve water quality in this state,’ Leeds said Wednesday. ‘All it does is divide rural and urban and causes everyone to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyer fees.'”

Ms. Eller added that, “The environmental groups said Wednesday the state has failed to protect the public’s use of the Raccoon River, as required under the Public Trust Doctrine, and abdicated ‘control to private interests.’

“The group says the state’s voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy doesn’t protect the Raccoon River for the ‘use and benefit of all Iowans.’

“The strategy seeks to cut urban and rural nitrogen and phosphorus levels by 45 percent the nutrients that contribute to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone each summer.”

Last week’s article reminded readers that, “The utility [Des Moines Water Works] filed a lawsuit in 2015 against drainage districts in three north Iowa counties, alleging underground drainage tiles funnel high levels of nitrogen into the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa residents.

The utility sought to force drainage districts, and indirectly farmers, to meet federal clean-water standards, similar to those governing factories, cities and other ‘point-source‘ polluters.

“The lawsuit was dismissed in 2017.”

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