Bill Stowe, a central figure in the 2015 lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works that tried to hold drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties responsible for nutrient runoff from farms, died of cancer on Sunday at age 60. He retired as general manager of the utility on April 2 because of the illness, said the Des Moines Register.
President Trump announced a plan to roll back Obama-era clean water regulations that aimed to protect rivers and streams from agricultural runoff and other pollutants. It will remove vast wetlands and thousands of miles of waterways from federal protection.
In his new book, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, FERN contributor Ben Goldfarb makes the case that this widely vilified rodent, which was trapped nearly out of existence in the U.S., is not only making a comeback but could play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change and other problems afflicting farmers. (No paywall)
The USDA says there is now enough room in the Conservation Reserve that, for the first time in months, it will accept applications for high-priority stewardship projects, such as filter strips, that prevent erosion and maintain water quality on fragile land. Enrollment runs from today through Aug. 17 for the practices, which require comparatively small amounts of land.
A day after the Ohio EPA declared the western end of Lake Erie to be an impaired wateryway, agency director Craig Butler said, "The time has come that we can't rely on voluntary programs" to reduce nutrient runoff that feeds algal blooms in the lake, reported Associated Press. To address the problem, the state announced a set of new proposals to reduce runoff from farms and wastewater plants.
Residents of tiny Lone Jack, MO, are fighting a proposal by a local ranch to expand its feedlot from around 600 cows to nearly 7,000. It is the latest in a series of communities pushing back against a national trend toward concentrated animal agriculture. (No paywall)
A coalition of 55 environmental, agricultural, and food-safety organizations signed a letter urging the Iowa General Assembly pass a moratorium on new and expanded factory farm development in the state. Iowa currently houses nearly 23 million hogs, a record for the state and the highest number in the country.
The algal bloom in Lake Erie this summer, fed in part by agricultural runoff, was roughly the same size as in 2013, the third-most severe bloom in 15 years of federal records, said the Associated Press.
More than 200 of Iowa’s community water systems struggle with agricultural runoff, periodically issuing “Do Not Drink” orders because of high levels of nitrates. “The good news is that researchers have a pretty good handle on how to solve Iowa’s water problem,” reports Elizabeth Royte in FERN’s latest story, with National Geographic. (No paywall)