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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Clean Lakes program still holds promise for Storm Lake

Monday, December 31, 2001

Can the Clean Lakes Program help Storm Lake? Yes, but first it needs cash in the kitty.

First started in the early 1970s, the Clean Lakes Program was targeted at providing expanded federal resources for the country's lakes.

However, funding for the program was cut more than six years ago, to the disappointment of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and local Lake Preservation Association.

While the Environmental Protection Agency has encouraged states to use other EPA funding - some of which provided $200,000 for a Storm Lake watershed project - state officials say it is not enough to support all of the needs.

"The Clean Lakes Program, if restored, would greatly improve the quality of our lakes for this and future generations," said Lyle Asell, special assistant with the Iowa DNR. "The Clean Lakes Program was fairly broad in authority and could be used for treatment of lakes, watershed improvements, dredging and so on. Unfortunately it hasn't been funded for several years."

The Clean Lakes Program was originally established in 1972 as part of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Known as section 314, the goal of the Clean Lakes Program was to provide financial and technical assistance to states in restoring publicly-owned lakes.

The Clean Lakes Program administered by the EPA provided cost share grants to help states protect and improve lake water quality. More than $145 million was appropriated for the Clean Lakes Program between 1976 and 1994, according to the EPA.

Since then, no money has been appropriated for the program. Instead, the EPA has encouraged states to use other money they receive from the Clean Water Act for non-point source pollution grants to fund programs which may have qualified for Clean Lakes grants.

According to Asell, funding from the Clean Lakes Program would be needed at Storm Lake, Little Wall Lake, Crystal Lake, Clear Lake, Rock Creek Lake and Lake of Three Fires.

He said there are eight or nine programs at both state and federal levels which the state uses to address water quality concerns. There are other programs the state uses to address watershed issues and dredging, such as the Iowa Lakes Restoration Program that is funding the Storm Lake dredging program.

"Whenever you lose one (funding program) that's like taking another tool out of your toolbox," he said. "That means you have to rely on other sources.

"Controlling soil erosion and improvements in the lake's water quality go hand in hand with better fishing and increased lake use," Asell added. "We need a strong Clean Lakes Program if we are to continue to address complex and costly lake and lake watershed improvement projects. We recognize the cost share grants provided by the Clean Lakes Program were the main ingredient in Iowa's very successful lake improvement program."

The EPA "suggests" states use at least 5 percent of their non-point source pollution grants, which is section 319 of the Clean Water Act, to fund typical Clean Lakes activities to address the restoration and protection of "priority" lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

Guidelines for the use of those funds includes diagnostic and feasibility studies, restoration and implementation projects, and post-restoration monitoring studies.

"We used to get Clean Lakes Program money to do lake restoration work," said Ubbo Agena, environmental specialist with the DNR. "That money is no longer available - we're just using state appropriations money to do that."

John Houlihan, chief of geographic planning for the EPA Region 7 out of Kansas City, said without funding for the Clean Lakes Program, other funds must be used for those projects.

"Congress has not appropriated any money for that particular section of the Clean Water Act for a number of years, and instead has directed the EPA to fund Clean Lakes type of projects out of section 319, the non-point source pollution program."

Houlihan explained that when it had money, the Clean Lakes Program was used to diagnose and develop "feasible" solutions to pollution problems in lakes. "It was usually aimed at natural lakes and not reservoirs," he said.

The EPA typically provided funding on a 70/30 cost share basis for a feasibility study, and then would decide whether or not to move on to phase 2 funding for implementation. Those funds were available on a 50/50 cost share basis and could be used for large scale dredging or shoreline stabilization.

"Now that we don't have the actual appropriation, the state is free to develop similar types of projects under their 319 funding," Houlihan said. "Some states, not all states, have done so."

States are also free to decide how to fund a project and what portions of a project should be funded, whether it be a feasibility test, dredging or other projects, or both. Funds are typically provided on a 60/40 cost share basis.

However, a state is not as free to use those funds for in-lake work. "It doesn't fund in-lake work unless the source of the problem in the watershed has been corrected," Houlihan said. "We don't want to go in and dredge a lake and not protect a watershed and end up 20 years later with the lake silted in again."

That could be different, though, if a lake has a nutrient or chemical problem in lake that necessitates its immediate removal.

"Generally large-scale dredging has not been funded for 319 programs, it's up to the State of Iowa if that was a priority," Houlihan said.

Typically funds from the non-point source pollution program are not earmarked for dredging.

"The Clean Lakes Program and Iowa Lakes Restoration Program are the only two I'm aware of you can use to do some active things from a dredging standpoint," Asell said.

Agena said the DNR looks to fund water quality projects through the non-point source pollution program. In Iowa, where 90 percent of the state is farmland, that generally means agricultural land run off, Agena said. However, parking lots, streets and highways also cause run-off problems, he added.

Iowa has received water quality funding through the EPA's non-point source pollution program since 1990, Agena said. Approximately $850,000 was received the first year, which has increased to slightly over $5 million for the most recent budget year.

While some of that money is used for education programs and staff support, Agena said the bulk of it is used to implement non-point source pollution control programs.

About $205,000 has been spent on a project for the Storm Lake watershed, which focused on reducing sedimentation and nutrient and pesticide pollution from ag and urban sources.

Through Buena Vista County Soil and Water Conservation District, farmers were educated in tillage, contour farming, terraces and filter strips, while others were educated on wildlife and upland habitat, animal waste management and application of nutrient and pesticide management.

"The project was used to control and reduce the amount of pollutants entering the watershed," Agena said. "319 funded a large percentage of that project, along with other state and federal dollars.

"In terms of relationship with the Clean Lakes Program, we have supported watershed projects, and have supported some monitoring and assessment activities for specific lakes," Agena said. "We do try to use 319 to try to protect our lakes.

"What we try to do is to pick projects where we have a water body of particular importance. Clearly our lakes are important, but that also includes trout streams which are unique and other water resources," Agena said.

Limited funds and a large demand may mean lightening only strikes once for some projects. "Projects funded through non-point source grants range from trout streams, water supplies to other statewide projects," Asell said, noting the wide variety but limited funding.

According to James Carstenson, spokesman for Congressman Tom Latham, said since the Clean Lakes Program is not funded, it is up to the state of Iowa to decide whether or not to use funds from non-point source pollution grants to fund dredging projects. Congress is appropriating approximately $234 million for that program in the next fiscal year.

Kimberly Cass, press secretary for Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, said the senator encourages people to contact his office to voice support for Clean Lakes Program appropriations. His office will forward those to the Energy and Water Subcommittee for consideration.

Cass said people should write in around the beginning of the year to get in early on the appropriations process.

On the net:



Congressional Appropriations for Clean Lakes Program

Year Congressional Appropriation

1976 $7,646,066

1977 $9,889,402

1978 $10,655,804

1979 $6,127,823

1980 $19,518,134

1981 $16,132,250

1982 $7,818,814

1983 $2,703,780

1984 $4,898,118

1985 $5,120,597

1986 $4,822,988

1987 $4,500,000

1988 $0

1989 $9,124,414

1990 $12,160,266

1991 $8,127,033

1992 $7,000,000

1993 $4,000,000

1994 $5,000,000

1995 * $58,195

1996 $0

1997 $0

1998 $0

1999 $0

2000 $0

2001 $0

Total $145,000,000

* This funding was for a specific lake

-Source: Environmental Protection Agency Web Site,


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