Des Moines Water Works lawsuit summarily dismissed, closing this chapter but not solving the problem
On March 17, 2017, Judge Leonard T. Strand, US District Court of the Northern District of Iowa, issued a summary judgement in favor of the defendants in Des Moines Water Works versus Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun Counties. The defendants in the case filed a motion requesting the case be dismissed. Judge Strand ruled in their favor.
Specifically, the ruling finds that the drainage districts represented by the three counties do not have the authority to “mandate changes in farming practices to reduce fertilizer runoff or to assess farmers for the cost of removing nitrates from waters flowing through agricultural drainage systems.” You can read the ruling at this link.
For history on this lawsuit, you can read the complaint that the Des Moines Water Works filed in 2015 here.
The January Supreme Court decision can be found here.
If you’d prefer a short summary to reading all these decisions, check out this story on WHOT. Iowa Public Radio has information on this here, and also gets photo credits for the drainage ditch pictures with this post. Click on the pictures for a link to the IPR article.
Next steps? Judge Strand suggested that this is a problem for the Legislature to decide, not the Courts. We will cover further happenings here in this blog.
When the amount of oxygen in water drops, fish and other aquatic animals cannot survive. Areas with low or no oxygen are called “hypoxic zones”, and are found in nutrient-rich waters where microscopic phytoplankton multiply boundlessly and then in turn die and decay. The decay ‘uses up’ the oxygen in the water, making it impossible for other aquatic creatures to survive there. This is why hypoxic zones are called “dead zones”.
In the Mississippi River System, the dead zone forms at the mouth of the river and extends for miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. This is depicted clearly in this video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Gulf dead zone peaks in the spring of the year and extends from New Orleans westward to the Louisiana-Texas border. The world’s largest hypoxic zone is in the Baltic Sea, where overfishing has exacerbated the problem by reducing the number of fish available to feed on the phytoplankton. Read about that here. Other dead zones occur in Chesapeake Bay, Green Bay, and Lake Erie. Circle of Blue’s Codi Kozachek writes about dead zones around the world, and their impact on human health and the economy in this article.
In Lake Michigan, the dead zone forms in Green Bay where the Fox River carries nutrient pollution into the Bay and overwhelms the ability of this ecosystem to manage the influx. Here, scientists estimate that a 50% reduction in the amount of nutrients coming into the Bay may be enough to take care of the problems. Like in the Mississippi River watershed, the amount of pollutants in the Fox River from point sources has been steadily declining, but the nonpoint contribution (primarily from agriculture) remains high. This topic was discussed at the LWV Wisconsin’s Annual Convention in 2016 in a discusion of "the Economic Case for Water Quality" – see the video here.
The title of this blog post, “Dead Zone season is coming again to a major water body affected by you“, refers to the fact that if you are reading this, chances are that the water you flush probably goes to the Mississippi River eventually, meaning that we are all part of the problem here. We need to know that this problem is not a hoax, is not going away and still must be solved. We know that changing agricultural practices so that the earth is covered most of the time will help, and that effective fertilizer and manure management is needed to prevent loss of valuable crop nutrients to waterways.
LWV UMRR’s Annual Meeting on May 6 will focus on ways to move ahead in advocacy on this critical topic. Join us in La Crosse and become part of the solution. Sign up here today!
Our water is in trouble and we are all in the same boat. We need clean water for drinking and industry, and healthy ecosystems to support the life around us. It is time for us all to jump in, learn about what can be done, and get going on doing it!
On January 11, the Galena Rotary partnered with the League of Women Voters Jo Daviess County to hold a day-long conference at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa in Galena. This conference, titled “Water, We're all in the Same Boat” was part of the 30th Annual Galena Rotary Roundtable. There was a series of excellent talks at this conference, most of which are now posted on YouTube for all who missed the conference. Thanks to Robert Lieberman for the videos, and to all the speakers for their presentations!
Chapter 1: Mississippi River Watershed Report Card Harald Jordahl, Director, America’s Watershed Initiative https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuGacnAyIIo
Chapter 2: Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Amy Burns Walkenbach, Manager, IEPA Watershed Management https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTeDQRrLm3w&t=9s
Chapter 3, The 4Rs: On-Farm Nutrient Stewardship Jean Payne, President, Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0BLY-sNE9g
Chapter 4. One Drop at a Time: Valuing Rain Water Marcus De La Fleur, Landscape Architect, de la fleur LLC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDoeK3AGokw
Chapter 5, Panel Discussion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSJwkXl7COU
Chapter 6, The World Water Crisis–Rotary Solutions , Val Johnson, member, Board of Directors of the “Water and Sanitation Rotary Action Group”, representing North America in Rotary’s quest to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education throughout the world https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXZhYkLv5hM&t=450s
Chapter 7: Building Consensus – Bonnie Cox and Beth Baranski, League of Women Voters of Jo Daviess County https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=kd7vU5g1nIw
Chapter 8: Apple Canyon Lake Watershed Plan Paula McFeely Wiener and Darryle Burmeister, Resource Conservationist, Jo Daviess SWCD https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=c5a_QhZEVz4