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Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter

Thursday 05/30/13

Iowa Releases Final Nutrients Strategy

After receiving more than 1,700 public comments the state of Iowa made adjustments to a proposed nutrient reduction strategy that has drawn criticism from environmental and other groups that want mandatory regulations put in place to reduce nutrients flows to the Gulf of Mexico.

As part of the release on Wednesday the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University also released a 58-page document with questions asked about the proposal along with the state's answers.

"We are appreciative of the huge interest in the draft strategy and we believe we have a stronger document due to the public comments we received," Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said in a statement Wednesday.

"The intent of this strategy is to provide a comprehensive and integrated approach addressing both point and nonpoint sources of nutrients in a practical and scientific way."

Iowa's strategy is focused on reducing both point- and non-point source pollution, although public comments submitted suggested the plan doesn't go far enough in reducing the largest source of nitrogen and phosphorous into Iowa waters -- non-point agricultural runoff.

The state addressed this question in the document released Wednesday.

"As explained in the strategy, the 102 largest municipal wastewater facilities serve the treatment needs of 55% to 60% of Iowa's population and treat more than 80% of all the sewage produced by the 817 city owned and operated wastewater treatment plants," the response said.

"The 29 major industries discharge the majority of all process wastewater generated and discharged by the 340 permitted industries in Iowa. These 131 major point sources, together with 17 minor industries with existing biological treatment systems, provide the greatest opportunity for significantly reducing nutrient loadings to Iowa waters from point sources.

"Many of these facilities have existing treatment facilities that can be retrofitted to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. On the other hand, most smaller municipal and industrial facilities cannot be easily modified to remove more nutrients and would need to be replaced by new, more complex treatment facilities. The cost to these smaller cities and industries to build and operate new treatment systems is, in most cases, not affordable and furthermore would result in only a small percentage reduction in the amounts of nutrients discharged to Iowa's rivers and streams."

One of the public comments the state addressed was that strategy 'lacks vision' and offers 'nothing new or innovative.'

"We disagree," the state said.

"The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a new beginning in the state's efforts to assess and reduce nutrient loading to Iowa waters. Iowa leaders representing nonpoint sources (agriculture) and point sources (municipalities and industries) are working together to develop and implement an integrated strategy to enhance Iowa’s and downstream waters, including the Gulf of Mexico.

"The collaboration between point source and nonpoint source leaders works to replace the finger pointing of the past with the understanding that a concerted, cooperative and sustained effort by both point and nonpoint sources will be needed to meet the ambitious goals outlined in the strategy, since neither source can meet the goals on its own."

The state responses point out a number of new aspects of the plan.

That includes an Iowa science assessment of nonpoint source practices to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus transport to the Mississippi River Basin, to inform the implementation of conservation practices to improve Iowa's waters.

Also, an Iowa point source nutrient reduction technology assessment was completed to guide the implementation of wastewater treatment technologies to reduce nutrient discharges.

"A concerted, cooperative and sustained effort by both point and nonpoint sources will be needed to meet the ambitious goals defined in this strategy, since neither source can meet the goals on its own," DNR Director Chuck Gipp said in a statement.

"We must continue to recognize that both sources play critical roles in regards to nutrient loads on a seasonal and annual basis."

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Natural Resources worked with Iowa State University during a two-year period to develop a draft strategy that was released for public comment period Nov. 19, 2012. Comments were received from Nov. 19, 2012 to Jan. 18, 2013. In addition, four public meetings were held to educate the public about the draft strategy.

The Iowa strategy was developed in response to the 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan that calls for the 12 states along the Mississippi River to develop strategies to reduce nutrient loading to the Gulf.

The strategy will be used to develop operational plans through the Water Resources Coordinating council.

Read the final strategy and response to comments here, www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu.

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Posted at 3:33PM CDT 05/30/13 by Todd Neeley
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