Article courtesy of Rick Smith | May 11, 2015 | The Gazette | Shared as educational material
CEDAR RAPIDS — Mayor Ron Corbett helped launch a new statewide organization Monday that seeks to work with farmers and the agricultural industry to improve the state’s water quality.
Joining Corbett on the volunteer board of directors of the Iowa Partnership for Clean Water are Patty Judge, former Iowa lieutenant governor and state secretary of agriculture; Christine Hensley, a Des Moines City Council member; and Don Kass, a county supervisor in Plymouth County in northwest Iowa.
“The four of us bring a balance of rural and urban,” Corbett said. “And that’s what we have to do. We can’t really divide our state on this issue of clean water.”
Corbett said he disagreed with the recent decision by the Des Moines Water Works board of directors to sue three rural counties to seek redress from nitrates that come off farm fields and end up in Des Moines’ drinking water supply.
“I personally feel the way to go is to work with farmers and work with rural areas of the state, versus suing,” he said.
Corbett said the world’s population is going to continue to grow, and Iowa is going to continue to play a “critical” role in helping feed the world.
“That’s why the lawsuit that Des Moines (Water Works) has decided to take could kind of put a chilling effect on the progress that is being made,” he said. “That is what our group is going to do. We’re going to be out there promoting the progress and on how we’re working in cooperation and collaboration with each other.”
Des Moines council member Hensley said “meaningful progress” on water quality matters will require urban and rural residents to join forces to support current water quality initiatives and to work on new ones.
Judge said Iowans need to recognize that farmers have been working to keep Iowa’s water safe.
“We need to stand up for Iowa farmers and recognize the important role they play in our lives,” she said.
Corbett said the new organization is raising funds from individuals, businesses and organizations such as the Farm Bureau.
He said he, like the rest of Cedar Rapids, learned a lot about water quantity in the city’s historic 2008 flood disaster. But he said the city also has seen new challenges to its water quality and, as a result, is helping to sponsor water quality improvements in three counties above Cedar Rapids in the Cedar River watershed. In addition, the city is working with Iowa State University and others to plant prairie grasses on city-owned farmland around The Eastern Iowa Airport to assess its impact on water runoff and water quality, he said.
“We want people to learn more about these issues,” the mayor said.
He said the new organization planned an advertising campaign, and Corbett said he, for one, will be taking the group’s message to other communities across Iowa.