July 18, 2014

Summer 2014
Why Iowa's nutrient strategy falls short against water pollution
Camp Wellstone Iowa!
Creating jobs, growing Iowa's economy with clean energy
Natural resources are Iowa's foundation
Big steps to better water
REAP preserves Iowa's natural resources
Litter is on the decline
Grants to enhance community trees

The summer is flying by! It has been hard to beat the recent cool temperatures and dry weather.

My newsletter this week is focused on Iowa environmental issues. Governor Branstad’s vetoes of legislation passed this session to clean up our water are very disappointing and discouraging. We will need to work harder to get more Iowans to speak out about the need for action.

Today, the Iowa Policy Project has a new report on the challenges of cleaning up our rivers and lakes. Here is a link to the report: www.iowapolicyproject.org/2014Research/140717-nutrient.html.

Dates: August 1-3
Location: Olmsted Center, Drake University – Des Moines, IA

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is excited to host this candidate training here in Iowa. If you are thinking about running for office in the next two years, hope to help out on a campaign or just want to learn more about grassroots organizing, this training is for you!

Senator Paul Wellstone fought for progress, and his legacy is doing the same. Camp Wellstone is open to anyone interested in gaining practical skills in progressive political action. Focus areas are offered based on your role in progressive organizing, each with a distinctive curriculum taught by some of the nation’s leading experts in grassroots politics and organizing.

You register by choosing one of three tracks below, that you will stay with throughout the weekend (click the track names to register!)

Grassroots Organizer Track: How to win on grassroots organizing issues

Working on a Campaign Track: How to win progressive campaigns as a campaign worker or volunteer

Being a Candidate Track: How to run and win a progressive campaign, for those running for office or considering running in the future

Not sure which track you want to attend? Learn more about them at www.wellstone.org/camp-wellstone-sessions.

The cost to attend is your choice of registration fee of either $150 or $300. Camp Wellstone believes in training everyone, regardless of income. Though the true cost of Camp Wellstone is actually greater than $300, they strive to keep their trainings affordable for progressive leaders at all income levels, and they look to you to decide what’s fair, based on your personal circumstances. If you cannot pay either of these fees, please contact Mysti, to discuss scholarship options. No matter the level you choose, the benefits are the same (training, customized materials, one of their books and three meals during the weekend).

Questions? Contact Mysti or Adam.

Iowa is proof that clean energy works. We lead the nation in wind power generation and in biofuels production. We also rank among the top 12 states in the nation when it comes to energy efficiency.

These successes have not come about by accident. Iowa is responding to the growing demand for alternative forms of energy and maximizing the benefit of adopting them with bipartisan support.

Here are three bills signed into law this year that build on our commitment to clean energy and renewable fuels, as well as the good jobs and economic boost these industries create:

Senate File 2343 extends the deadline to complete wind energy and other projects using Iowa’s Renewable Energy Tax Credits. It also allows landfill gas to be used as fuel for innovative cogeneration projects. The carbon footprint of Iowa ethanol is already lower than that of fossil fuels. By adding cogeneration processes to the mix, Iowa will produce even fewer greenhouse gases.

Senate File 2344 strengthens and diversifies Iowa’s leadership in biofuels. It increases the tax credit for E15 during the hot summer months, extends Iowa's biodiesel production tax credit for five years and encourages the production of new advanced fuels that take advantage of Iowa’s agricultural strengths.

Senate File 2340 triples the amount of solar energy tax credits available to Iowa farmers, homeowners and businesses. State tax credits for solar installations at businesses and residences are now 60 percent of the federal credit. In addition, a single taxpayer can claim credits for multiple installations, which means a business with more than one location will receive a credit for installing solar at each location.

We've also shown unanimous support for encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain a strong Renewable Fuels Standard, as well as for extending the federal wind energy production tax credit. Lack of federal action puts many Iowa jobs at risk and slows investment in clean, renewable energy.

Iowa jobs, economy and way of life are rooted in our abundant natural resources. Our rich soils, plentiful water and other natural assets make Iowa a great place for agriculture and energy production, while offering a good quality of life and recreational opportunities.

Perhaps that is why 96 percent of Iowans agree that it is important to maintain a clean environment, according to a recent survey by Keep Iowa Beautiful.

We've had a couple of banner years when it comes to our state's natural resources. The Legislature voted last year to invest in programs and partnerships with farmers, landowners and communities, which are now implementing science-based and technology-based practices to clean up Iowa's lakes and streams.

This year, Governor Branstad vetoed more than $20 million for water quality and natural resources initiatives approved by the Legislature. Despite that veto, the remaining funding will be used to educate Iowans about ways to improve our soil and water, and will enable more urban and rural landowners to join the clean-up efforts.

Other successes this year include:

• Helping farmers quickly and cost-effectively implement soil and water improvements by allowing the equipment to install conservation practices on Iowa roads.

• Increasing funding for forestry health to help communities prepare for the impact of the Emerald Ash Borer on Iowa’s woodlands.

• Investing in innovative technologies that reduce pollution and increase the efficiency of Iowa’s renewable fuels industry.

• Leveraging private, local and federal money to improve our environment through REAP, Iowa’s popular Resource Enhancement and Protection Program.

Revitalizing our lakes through local community projects that offer Iowans a good return on investment with improved water quality, a healthy aquatic community and sustained public-use benefits.

• A strong commitment to the Environment First Fund, which supports operations at our state parks, conservation help for farmers and landowners, community beautification and development plans, and more.

Heavy rains this summer have brought trouble, misery and headaches to many Iowans. Stream flows are up in most parts of the state, and shallow groundwater is getting back to normal. On the down side, heavy rains can increase flooding and pollution of our waterways.

The Legislature is working to tackle these problems with support for the Iowa Flood Center and other initiatives. Through projects in Iowa communities, Flood Center researchers are designing ways to better monitor stream flow, creating a library of flood-inundation maps and developing new floodplain maps.

Iowa's new Water Quality Initiative is improving conservation practices in high-priority watersheds. Over the last couple of years, we approved funding for scientific, cost-effective approaches that will leave our land and water in better shape for future generations.

At the same time, we’ve provided funding for the Iowa Nutrient Research Center to study and develop strategies to improve our waterways, including tools for farmers to reduce runoff from their land and the best ways to keep excess nitrogen and phosphorous out of the water.

As part of this effort, cost share assistance is available to help farmers install new nutrient reduction practices that will improve productivity and keep sediment out of the water. Last year, in just two weeks, more than 1,000 farmers signed up for cost share funding on 100,000 acres in all 99 counties. To learn more and submit an application for funding, go to https://idals.iowa.gov/FARMS/.

For those interested in learning what steps they can take—whether on a farm, at a business or in a home—a one-stop shop for water quality conservation is available at www.CleanWaterIowa.org.

In the coming weeks, Iowans will have the chance to make their voices heard on water quality standards. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will hold six public meetings around the state in early September. To learn more, contact Rochelle Weiss, DNR water quality standards coordinator, at 515-281-4736 or Rochelle.Weiss@dnr.iowa.gov.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Iowa’s popular Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP), the Legislature overwhelmingly approved a record $25 million in funding this year. Unfortunately, Governor Branstad vetoed $9 million of that, which would have helped clean up our waterways and improve our environment.

REAP is a nationally recognized program that succeeds on the combined efforts of Iowa stakeholders from conservation, hunting, water quality, history and other groups. They have come together to promote REAP in a way that preserves our state’s heritage and improves quality of life.

In 1989, the Legislature created REAP to protect Iowa’s natural resources and cultural history through land acquisition and protection, state and local park improvements, soil and water quality projects, and funding for cultural and historical organizations. REAP also commits $350,000 each year to conservation education.

REAP has supported 14,535 projects in all 99 counties. An investment of $264 million statewide has leveraged two to three times as much in private, local and federal money. The majority of money appropriated for REAP goes to local efforts approved by county committees, including roadside vegetation, city parks and county conservation.

For more information on REAP, including projects in each county, go to www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/REAP.aspx.

Litter in Iowa is on the decline, according to new surveys from Keep Iowa Beautiful, an organization committed to keeping our communities clean, healthy and attractive.

Over the past 12 years, nearly all Iowans have agreed that it is important to maintain a clean environment, and in that time, many of our litter habits have improved. For example:

• Litter from packaging has been reduced by 21 percent.

• Litter from tobacco products has been reduced by 44 percent.

• Litter from plastics has been reduced by 33 percent.

• Litter from paper has been reduced by 58 percent.

In spite of the improvements, 52 percent say litter is still a problem in their community. Keep Iowa Beautiful is helping with litter-prevention efforts that include cleanup and beautification projects, education programs and public awareness efforts, and a litter hotline (1-888-NOLITTR) that operates in conjunction with law enforcement.

For compete findings and recommendation from Keep Iowa Beautiful’s recent surveys, go to www.keepiowabeautiful.com/research/research-and-special-studies.

Trees reduce our energy costs by shading buildings, slowing down winds and reducing heat loss. They also help improve air quality and reduce flooding by intercepting storm water. That's why the Department of Natural Resources is encouraging communities to use two grant programs to increase the number of healthy local trees.

Trees For Kids offers hands-on educational opportunities for Iowa youth by planting trees on school grounds and other public places. The grant pays up to $5,000 in tree and mulch cost, and provides educational tree planting demonstrations to participants.

Iowa communities with populations over 5,000 can apply for Sustainable Community Forestry grants. Selected communities will get intensive training on tree identification, health, planting and maintenance, as well as a complete street tree inventory, canopy cover analysis and an urban tree management plan.

For further details and grant applications, go to www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/Forestry/UrbanForestry.aspx. The deadline to apply is September 1.

How to Contact Me

Joe Bolkcom
728 2nd Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52245

About The Networker

The Networker provides brief summaries of some of the things that I am working on, the work of the General Assembly, and political perspectives on issues. I also use it to announce meetings and how to find useful information about state government.

Additional information

Senator Joe Bolkcom is an Assistant Majority Leader and chair of the Ways & Means Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, Environment & Energy Independence, Human Resources, and Natural Resources committees.