nfl china jerseys nike A look at algal blooms in North Iowa
Algal blooms, which have occurred in lakes, rivers and other bodies of water throughout Iowa the past several years, can result from too many nutrients entering the water, creating a small bloom.
Then, that bloom grows through photosynthesis. Issues can arise if toxicity levels in the water are high, posing health risks to animals and humans.
The Globe Gazette examined the current state of algal blooms in North Iowa, specifically in Clear Lake. Multiple officials said that while efforts can improve, Cerro Gordo and the surrounding counties have taken steps to ensure recreational bodies of water are safe to fish in, swim in and otherwise enjoy.
Jim Sholly, who has been the CLEAR Project coordinator in Clear Lake for the past two summers, said one of the unique challenges is a mixture of urban and agricultural runoff that add nutrients to the water. That can create algal blooms.
Much of the agricultural runoff comes from increased manure accumulation, which puts increased nutrients in the water. Sholly believes that while the issue is worse in other parts of the state, local farmers should take advantage of funding and programs designed to better their environmental impact on lakes and streams.
“In Cerro Gordo County, we need someone who we call a ‘champion farmer,'” Sholly said. “Someone who is doing this stuff, is progressive, and talking to their neighbors that’s when it starts to spread.”
One of the most important components that helps farmers accomplish this is Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding. The USDA awards money to the NRCS in Iowa, which then disburses the money to individual counties.
Corey Brink, NRCS’s district conservationist for Mitchell and Howard counties, said his organization acts as an educational tool for farmers, who apply for the funds through applications.
“We’re voluntary, so they have to decide if they want to come to us,” Brink said. “The main thing is we offer free technical assistance, erosion challenges, programs like that.”
What remains an issue, however, is how these funds should be spent. The Iowa Citizens for Community Involvement believes too much money is spent on concentrated animal feeding operations, which increases manure output and more nutrient rich bodies of water.
an organizer with the group’s farming and environment team, believes EQIP funding should be spent elsewhere.
“That’s not really a conservation practice,” she said of EQIP money going to CAFOs. “In essence, we’re subsidizing the construction of these factory farms through EQIP.”
Iowa’s EQIP director Paul Goldsmith, however, believes the funding process is transparent. The NRCS where Goldsmith’s job falls under does withhold some information from the public, mostly if personal identifying information of private landowners would be included.
As long as CAFOs build responsibly and take proper precautions, Goldsmith said environmental impact should be minimal.
“It’s for existing feedlots where we have runoff concerns,” he said of the funding for CAFOs. “We are eliminating or closing an existing runoff on feedlot issues.”
Regarding specific EQIP funding to North Iowa counties,an Associated Press data analysis shows many counties, including Cerro Gordo, have no data available or received $0 last year.
Goldsmith, however, stated some counties end up not using any of the allocated money because the county’s priorities doesn’t match what the funding needs to be spent on, from cover crops, nutrient management, grade stabilization structures and several other initiatives.
According to multiple officials, if this funding isn’t used, it goes back into the EQIP national funding pot. Goldsmith admitted, however, that last year, over $20 million worth of EQIP funding applications were unfulfilled statewide.
Despite this, local lakes and other bodies of water have recently been safe from toxic algae. Josh Rembe, Clear Lake State Park ranger, said his park’s beach has never been shut down in his 14 years on the job.
In 2015, an algal bloom killed thousands of fish in Crystal Lake, a popular Hancock County fishing spot. DNR officials said a combination of runoff, warm temperatures and light winds followed by abnormally cool and overcast days prompted a rapid death for the algae, which sucked oxygen out of the water as it decayed.
Although Clear Lake has seen worse days,
Sholly said local and state officials need to be aware of the problems algal blooms can cause but commended them for their recent work.