Hopefully, the controversy over mounting pressure by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on Iowa cities will not result in a town-versus-country issue.
However, at this point, a lot of Iowa municipalities, particularly smaller ones who do not have the funding for state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants, are scratching their heads and wondering why they're getting all the attention. After all, city leaders are saying in smaller communities, why should they foot the bill for a massively expensive upgrade to meet new standards when they generate only 5 percent of the effluent going into public waters. Meanwhile, there seems to be little movement afoot by the DNR to put similar pressures on tile drainage districts and other ag sources that generate the remaining 95 percent of effluent into public waterways, much of that nutrient runoff from ag production.
Tom Bredeweg, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities, said Tuesday that the League seeks a level playing field which addresses both point and nonpoint source effluent emissions into state waters.
"We all share the goal of cleaning up the water," Bredeweg said. "Why don't we make sure the money is spent the most effective way to get the most bang for our buck."
Bredeweg said League members are concerned that massive upgrades required of cities may not be all that effective - when compared to the overwhelming amount of nonpoint source effluents coming from ag sources. New DNR rules could really pinch the pocketbooks of smaller communities that have already made substantial improvements and have to turn around and make improvements again.
"The DNR has not been as receptive as we think they might be," Bredeweg said. While it's "less than likely at this juncture" that the League would consider filing an action over the fairness of new water quality standards, he said a more likely alternative would be for the League to pursue legislation at the state level to modify the DNR's proposed new rules.