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Relay of Voices: The Altered State

This month’s Iowa Water Watch featured story is authored by artist and cultural producer, Victoria Bradford Styrbicki. She previews the Iowa portion of her most recent storytelling project, “Relay of Voices” – a journey she took running on foot down the banks of the Mississippi River.

In 2019, the year of another great flood on the Mississippi River, I traveled the length of the river on foot in order to listen deeply to the voices shaped by the landscape. As we made our way into the heart of Iowa, we landed in Dubuque and met up with Jared McGovern at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. He explained the fact that Iowa as a state is so unique in that it’s the most altered state in the country. "99% of Iowa—its native cover is gone," Jared explained. "It’s been changed into something else, whether it’s row crop or urban or highways or something else." 

And here’s where his eyes lit up - he said, "so I like coming back here because it’s a challenge. You can go anywhere. I can work in California, Washington, Oregon, and it would be a heck of a lot easier because so many people have a different mindset out there…in the Midwest, in the most altered state in the country, if you’re going to be working around water and you have a passion about the outdoors, there’s no bigger challenge than Iowa." 

I almost stopped him there, but he got to it before I could. "Maybe Louisiana," he added, "but for different reasons." I was like, that’s my home state, and I hate to be vying for the most challenging situation, but I think we’re up there. "Well you’ve got the ag and the natural gas down there," Jared acknowledged. "Up here it’s mostly agricultural." 

What Jared was alluding to here, whether with Iowa or Louisiana, is that most of the native prairie and forest land in these two states has been converted to agriculture or industry, eliminating the natural process of topsoil replenishment and overall habitat growth. But you might be wondering why a woman from Louisiana was running the length of the river to begin with, working to have conversations in Iowa about agriculture and its effects on the Mississippi River.

Well it goes back to what Jared said about having a passion and bringing it home. 


We did it: $25,000 unlocked!

Thanks to the generosity of many supporters and friends, IEC was able to unlock $25,000 in matching gift funds to support IEC’s water program!

We are grateful to be part of such a strong community, committed to supporting the work to clean up Iowa’s waterways.

Interested in supporting a matching gift campaign like this for our work in 2023, or have another creative fundraising idea? Email Jordan Bles, Director of Fundraising and Development. 

Your contribution always make a difference! Make a gift to IEC today to help get our work off and running in 2023.


Annual Gulf Hypoxia Task Force meeting short on results

Iowa is one of 12 states involved in the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force (GHTF), established in 1998 to address fertilizer pollution that leads to a “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. 

As part of the Council’s ongoing efforts to reduce fertilizer pollution in Iowa’s waterways, IEC participates in GHTF meetings whenever possible. Water Program Director Alicia Vasto submitted comments in advance of the recent December meeting on several topics.

Read more about the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force and IEC's efforts to call for accountability and measureable metrics to provide insight to these efforts. 

Revising the Definition of "Waters of the United States"

On December 30, 2022, federal agencies announced a final rule to define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The final rule is founded on the framework of the pre-2015 regulations and provides additional clarity. 

EPA and partner agencies drafted the new rule with the goal of establishing a durable definition that "prioritizes implementation, protects vital water resources, and withstands the test of time."

Review the final revised definition from the EPA or attend a public webinar on January 19 at 11 a.m. CST. 

Learn more about free water quality tool: How's My Waterway 

How's My Waterway is a user-friendly tool designed for anyone to easily find, access, and understand information about their water quality. 

How’s My Waterway answers questions about aquatic life, eating fish, swimming, drinking water, monitoring, restoration and protection. The public has access to water information in their community and state and at a national level.

Learn more about how to use How's My Waterway, as well as recent enhancements in a free webcast on January 25.


IEC joins in marking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with environmental justice event - join us!

IEC has been invited to host an environmental justice summit discussion following the keynote presentation by Dr. Robert Bullard, father of environmental justice, at the YMCA of Greater Des Moines' 10th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast on January 16. 

Get tickets to attend the breakfast and keynote presentation for $50, or sign up to attend just the environmental justice summit for free. 


What's new in Iowa's water news:

•  Large cattle feedlot fined $2,000 for stream contamination   (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
•   Fremont County eyes final flood repair projects  (KMA Land)
•  Iowa groups look across border to improve Spirit Lake water quality  (IPR)
•  DNR confident contaminated water didn’t enter Iowa River, according to email (KCRG)
•  Bettendorf man works for water quality  (Quad-City Times)
•  Part of a northwest Iowa river has been pumped dry  (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
•  The EPA finalizes a water-protection rule that repeals Trump-era changes  (IPR)
•  Forever Chemicals in Drinking Water: An Emerging Health Threat  (IWLA)
•  3M to stop making ‘forever chemicals’  (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
•  The Next 50 Years of the Clean Water Act: Evening the Playing Field   (River Network)
•   In U.S., Minority Communities More Likely to Have Water Contaminated by Toxic Metals   (SW Iowa News )

Upcoming water events:

Thinking Like a Watershed - 2023 Virtual Series on Water & Soil Conservation - Jan. 10
The Sharks & Rays of Monterey - Rock Creek Marina, Clinton Co. - Jan. 10
• Introduction to Ice Fishing - F.W. Kent Park Lake, Johnson Co. - Jan. 14
• Ice Fishing Clinic at Selzer Pond - Hurstville Interpretive Center, Jackson Co. - Jan. 14
Ice Fest - Ice Age - National Mississippi River Museum, Dubuque - Jan. 14 - 15
• Central Park Nature Center Open House & Winter Fun Day - Central Park, Jones Co. - Jan. 16
• Ice Fishing Clinic - Green Castle Recreation Area, Marshall Co. - Jan. 21
• Incredible Ice Event & Trout Release- Scharnberg Park, Clay Co. - Jan. 21
• Family Ice Fishing 2023 - Sandy Hollow Recreation Area, Sioux Co. - Jan. 21
• Kayaking Session at Bender Pool - Wickiup Hill Learning Center, Linn Co. - Jan. 22
• Winterfest 2023 - Hyatt Regency Coralville Conference Center, Johnson Co. - Jan. 24 - 26
How's My Waterway webinar - virtual - Jan. 25​​​​​​
• Introduction to Ice Fishing - F.W. Kent Park Lake, Johnson Co. - Jan. 29


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Iowa Environmental Council
505 Fifth Ave., Suite 850 
 Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2317
515-244-1194 | iecmail@iaenvironment.org

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