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Local Editorials

Soil, water conservation essential

With this past week being three years since devastating flooding across Iowa, and the fact that recent weather has again caused agonizing problems with folks across the state, I feel the need to identify some facts regarding this situation. 

Wet weather affects us all, and certainly this year, as it has been difficult for farmers to get their planting done. It is reported that corn planting is complete, yet even now not all of soybeans are in.

As usual, the weather from this point on will dictate the extent of the fall harvest. It is the extremes we’ve experienced with last year’s drought and this year’s excess moisture that renders hesitation with forecasting. Whatever shall be, shall be!

Five years ago I visited dozens of homes of my constituents in Bondurant, Altoona, Colfax and even Newton with flooded basements. 

How absolutely devastating it is for a home owner, most often with a mortgage, and perhaps with insufficient insurance coverage, to have their basement with standing water.

All were finished basements, at least to a certain extent, and the loss of personal items, many cases not replaceable (photos, etc.), was an experience I shall not forget. True, no lives were lost, but the personal loss is often such that no value can be assessed.

Without saying, government has no control of the weather. However, we can, and have, provided a relatively puny response that has assisted in at least reducing the financial loss to those affected.

A serious problem is that our government (state and federal) have morphed into reactive bodies, stepping in only after-the-fact to assist. Never are we proactive, and mainly because proactivity in all the issues that government is involved would be beyond their ability to financially and bureaucratically respond. 

I know that state government can be more proactive in flood reduction. To me it is simple, because my education and profession in conservation and natural resource management taught the realism that floods can be averted.

The answer, although costly since the advent of modern agriculture equipment where more lands are subjected to production of highly valued commodities, rests in protection of those lands in the watershed. Yes, it costs money, yet it also costs great sums of money to assist homeowners and communities after-the-fact.

An example of that would be Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, where $3 billion was spent following the devastation of three years ago. 

The watershed above those two major Iowa cities had been dramatically changed, since with urban sprawl there is more concrete and asphalt, timber that had been removed, wetlands drained and tiled, pasture lands converted to row crops, and a great number of additional human actions that caused the rainfall to gush off the land, filling our streams and rivers with nutrient and soil laden run-off.

Unless greater goes to protection of the land, floods and the resultant poor water quality and loss of precious topsoil will continue. To continue at the current rate of soil loss to the Gulf of Mexico, will relegate Iowa to losing its world leadership and economy in food production.

Next week’s column will identify the means by which landowners and government must work together to save our soil, improve water quality, and maintain our basic agricultural economy.

Any questions or comments, call me at (515) 975-8608.

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