All posts by 1000 Friends of Iowa

Tell EPC and legislators you support 4″ topsoil rule

In January the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) heard citizen and expert input on the importance of leaving 4″ of topsoil on development sites. The EPC has given notice of intended action to amend Chapter 64, revising General Permit No. 2. The changes leave a loophole for developers that 1000 Friends of Iowa wants to see closed. The EPC will hold three public hearings in March to discuss the proposed changes to General Permit No. 2.

The proposed change to the topsoil rule requires builders to replace topsoil “unless infeasible”. The proposed change is vague and would leave it to builders to decide how much, if any, topsoil to replace. With the current discussion about impaired waters, run-off, erosion, a nutrient reduction strategy and nitrates in our drinking water – the EPC needs to hear Iowans expect better.

If this rule is rendered ineffective or the EPC gets rid of the 4″ rule, individual cities may need to adopt the 4″ rule as city code – as Ames, Coralville and others already have. But Iowa needs uniform laws across the state to ensure our environment and natural resources are protected.

Once the EPC holds hearings and makes their final rule, the rule will advance to the legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee. Take the opportunity to contact your legislator – even if she/he is not on the Administrative Rules Review Committee – now while the legislature is in session! Tell your legislator about the impending rule and what you want to see happen – a uniform rule across Iowa requiring developers to leave 4 inches of topsoil on development sites.

To establish healthy landscapes, improve on-site storm water retention, lessen runoff and soil erosion, and improve water quality – we need to retain four inches of healthy soil. The opposition is well-funded and vocal. Make your voice heard! We need every Iowan to contact the EPC and legislators and tell them you support the 4″ topsoil requirement.

The public hearings are scheduled as follows:

March 18, 2015 – 6 p.m.
City Services Center
Five Seasons Conference Room
500 15th Avenue SW
Cedar Rapids

March 25, 2015 – 6 p.m.
Easter Ave. Branch Library
Room A
6000 Eastern Avenue

March 27, 2015 – 1 p.m.
Wallace Building Auditorium
502 E. 9th Street
Des Moines

If you are unable to attend one of the public hearings, comments may be submitted to the Storm Water Coordinator by mail, fax, orally or by email between March 10 & April 1, 2015.

Storm Water Coordinator
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
502 E. 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: 515-725-8417
Fax: 515-725-8202

Additional information:

Administrative Rules Review Committee
EPC Notice of Intended Action
Additional background on the issue, including public comments, from the DNR

Another solution to nitrate pollution: cover crops

NPR The Salt, February 2, 2015

Here’s How to End Iowa’s Great Nitrate Fight by Dan Charles

Three weeks ago, Sara Carlson was driving to her job in Ames, Iowa, when she turned on the radio and heard me talking about nitrates in Iowa’s water.

“And I was like, ‘I really hope he nails this,’ ” she says.

This topic is Carlson’s specialty. She works with a group called Practical Farmers of Iowa. These farmers are devoted to farming in ways that protect the environment.

Read the entire article.

Editorial by Art Cullen summarizes solutions to nitrate levels

We can solve this by Art Cullen

Storm Lake Times, January 28, 2015

We were encouraged to report Friday that virtually everyone involved in a potential lawsuit over nitrate levels in the Raccoon River is interested in some sort of negotiated settlement. We were especially interested in hearing from Buena Vista County Attorney Dave Patton and Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe that they agree that we have an issue that needs to be sorted out short of a courtroom. If those two people could meet in a room for an hour or two we would bet there would be some sort of outline for a deal.

Read the entire editorial.

1000 Friends Seeks Executive Director

1000 Friends of Iowa is looking for an enthusiastic, self-motivated and detail-oriented individual to fulfill the role of executive director. The executive director serves as the primary spokesperson for 1000 Friends of Iowa and cultivates audiences to support and promote the mission and vision of the organization. We seek someone quick-witted and politically savvy, with an ability to find common ground among individuals who may not share basic political beliefs. This person will run the day-to-day inner workings of a small non-profit including: overseeing financial and fundraising activities, conducting outreach and education programming, and collaborating with others to address local, regional and state-wide land use priorities.

Basic Qualifications Include:

  • Academic degree and experiences totaling a minimum of 5 years; including experience in land use, conservation, or environmental arenas in advocacy or related for-profit ventures.
  • Commitment to smart planning principles, land use reform and economic sustainability.
  • Experience in organizational management and behavior, preferably with non-profit organizations.
  • Proven communication skills (including written and in-person) and ability to connect with diverse audiences including donors, board members, employees, volunteers, outside partners and political leaders. Preferred candidate has a teaching perspective and possesses a joy of learning from and educating others.
  • Successful experience with organizational fundraising, grant writing, financial management and budgeting.
  • Familiarity with and experience using common software: word processor, spreadsheets and databases, presentation and financial packages.
  • Preferred candidate has experience writing and editing newsletter articles and laying out publications including brochures, newsletters, storyboards, electronic messages, web pages, and other materials offered to the public

The ideal candidate will be comfortable working alone and making decisions about programs or initiatives independently with infrequent oversight and limited collaboration. The candidate will understand the nature of nonprofit work, fundraising and leading in a nonprofit environment. The candidate will have opportunities to engage Iowans, meet diverse stakeholders involved in land use issues and raise awareness of responsible land use in Iowa. While the work can be lonely, the right person could build a quality team to collaborate in advancing the organization’s mission. The executive director reports to the board of directors at quarterly board meetings, and by email between meetings.

Benefits include:

  • Flexible work schedule
  • Health/dental insurance
  • Competitive PTO

Applications will be accepted through February 16, 2015. No phone calls, please.

Please submit cover letter, resume and contact information for three references to:

1000 Friends of Iowa
3850 Merle Hay Road, Suite 605
Des Moines, IA 50310

EPC meets tomorrow, Jan. 21 – 4″ topsoil rule needs your support!

The Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) will meet tomorrow – Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. – to consider, among other agenda items, adoption of a new  topsoil rule to replace the existing 4″ topsoil requirement. The EPC needs to hear you support the 4″ topsoil rule. The meeting will take place at the DNR Wallace Building, 502 East 9th Street in Des Moines.

In September 2012, the Administrative Rules Review Committee of the Legislature enacted a rule calling for preservation of existing topsoil, up to 4″. In 2014, a group of builders and developers from the Des Moines area objected to the rule. They argued it was not economically or technologically feasible to preserve a given amount of topsoil. Members of the Executive Order (EO) 80 Stakeholder Group appointed to review the rule include five representatives of the building industry and just two who represent homeowners, water quality, soil restoration and the public. In an April, 2014 news release, the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter asked that additional stakeholders be added to the group. The request was ignored.

The EPC needs to hear from you. As an undeveloped area is changed to urban, commercial, or industrial use, natural cover is removed and the chance of erosion problems increases. The topsoil contains organic matter that absorbs water and reduces runoff to local streams as well as provides that water and nutrients to sustain a lawn. To establish healthy landscapes (lawn, gardens, native plantings, trees and shrubs), improve on-site storm water retention, lessen runoff and soil erosion, and improve water quality – we need to retain four inches of healthy soil.

Please plan to attend the meeting, or submit your comments by email prior to the meeting, and show your support for the 4″ topsoil rule!

What: EPC Meeting
When: January 21, 2015, 1:30 p.m.
Where: DNR Wallace Building, 502 East 9th Street in Des Moines, Iowa
Public Participation: Requests to speak during the business meeting must be submitted by email to, or in-person prior to the start of the business meeting. In submitting your request to speak, you’re asked to indicate who you are representing (yourself, an association, etc.), the agenda item of interest, and your position – For, Opposed, or Neutral. Comments may also be submitted via email for the public record.

Additional information:

EPC meeting information, agenda and materials
Additional background on the issue, including public comments, from the DNR

CSP Rule Comments Accepted Through January 20, 2015

Have you submitted your comments  on the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) rule yet? This is the last chance to share your thoughts before the rule becomes final. The Center for Rural Affairs put together a fantastic guide for farmers and concerned citizens to submit their comments. Take a moment today and submit your comments to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and be a part of making a good program better!

2015 Main Street Iowa Application Workshops

To be eligible to submit an application for Main Street Iowa designation, community representatives must participate in a Main Street Iowa Application Workshop.

Main Street Iowa will host three regional application workshops in March covering topics ranging from the basics of the Main Street Approach® and program services of Main Street Iowa to the mechanics of completing an application in 2015 for Main Street Iowa designation, selection criteria, application distribution and review.

Dates and Locations
Monday, March 23, 2015, 1 – 5 p.m.
Cliff’s Place
417 Main Street
Manning, Iowa

Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 1 – 5 p.m.
Appanoose Rapids Brewing Company
332 East Main Street
Ottumwa, Iowa

Thursday, March 26, 2015, 1 – 5 p.m.
Cedar Falls Public Library (2nd floor meeting room)
524 Main Street
Cedar Falls, Iowa

Walk-ins will be accepted, but pre-registration is encouraged and appreciated to ensure adequate space and materials for participants. Those who pre-register will receive a digital copy of the 2015 Main Street Iowa Application prior to the workshop.

Visit to register.

Contact Michael Wagler, Main Street Iowa State Coordinator at 515.725.3051 or with questions.

1000 Friends of Iowa Announces 2014 Best Development Award Winners


MEDIA CONTACT: Siobhan Spain, 515-707-2783,

January 8, 2014 (Des Moines, Iowa) – 1000 Friends of Iowa is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Best Development Awards. The awards program showcases projects that recognize connections between building development and quality of life. With a mission focused on responsible land use, 1000 Friends of Iowa promotes smart growth planning principles that help achieve communities that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Please join 1000 Friends of Iowa in acknowledging the hard work of the 2014 Best Development Award winners, and promoting the good happening in our communities that make Iowa great:

1. New Residential: Madison Flats, Des Moines
Neighborhood Development Corporation cleaned up a contaminated site to build an apartment building and spark further developments in a blighted neighborhood with potential. Located across the river from Principal Park, Madison Flats is positioned to make a “catalytic impact in the Two Rivers District, encouraging other good projects in the area,” as one Best Development Award juror stated.

2. Renovated Residential (Co-Winners):
a. 1924 Leyner Street, Des Moines
The ambitious project by Indigo Dawn relocated a dilapidated Victorian-era bungalow and transformed it into a 1500 square foot home with a full basement, porch and updated amenities. It features include an insulated basement floor and walls; diverse stormwater management practices; and use of salvage and recycled materials.
b. 4818 Urbandale Avenue, Des Moines
Not deterred by gaping holes in the roof, a crumbling garage, and a bathtub ready to fall through the floor, David Barzen of Sterling Investments recognized that the 1920 Beaverdale Craftsman had “good bones.” The project is an example of how one person’s passion can make a difference that inspires a community. The neighborhood nuisance property is now home to a grateful family.

3. New Commercial/Civic: Viking Center, Stanton
A strong group of Stanton, Iowa, residents persevered over seven years to plan, build and dedicate the City’s Viking Center, a public building featuring a preschool, library, wellness center, walking track, gymnasium, multi-purpose community room and 625-person tornado shelter. In a community with a population of 700, over 400 people formed a “human chain” six blocks long, passing books hand to hand from the old library to the new center.

4. Renovated Commercial/Civic: Green Pilot Streetscape Project, West Union
A RAGBRAI event motivated community members to turn a standard streetscape infrastructure project into a downtown sustainable revitalization endeavor that included the renovation of 10 building facades; a district geothermal heating and cooling system; and a comprehensive stormwater management project. The Best Development Award jurors join the many voices concurring that this is simply an amazing story.

5. Mixed Use: 421 Main Street, Slater
In 2006, a dilapidated vacant building in Slater, Iowa, collapsed leaving a large clean-up bill, public safety and health concerns, and an economic development void. Learning from this trying event, City of Slater turned another nuisance property into an impactful opportunity. The renovated mixed use building acts as a beacon for other communities faced with similar challenges.

6. Leadership: Woodbine Main Street District, Woodbine
The work began in 2007 when the western Iowa town of 1,500 residents acknowledged their downtown, comprised of three square blocks with 10 vacant and decaying buildings, must be addressed. Prioritizing collaboration, pursuing diverse funding sources and accomplishing project after project has enabled Woodbine to reap the economic and community-building benefits of revitalizing existing assets.

7. Stormwater Management: Bee Branch Watershed Flood Mitigation Project’s Green Alley Program, Dubuque
The urban municipality’s ambitious 12-phase 20 -year community flood mitigation project retrofits alley infrastructure within the city’s Bee Branch Watershed with pervious pavement. By allowing stormwater to soak into the ground, Dubuque is able to reduce stormwater runoff by up to 80%, replenish the groundwater, and lessen the amount of pollutants entering the storm sewer system and ultimately the Mississippi River.

The Best Development Awards are selected from a pool of applications each year and judged by an independent group of jurors. This year’s jurors included Ryan Peterson of Impact7G, Iowa State University graduate student Kristen Greteman, and City of Ankeny Community Development Director John Peterson. Plaques commemorating each 2014 Best Development Awards recipient will be presented to the winners individually.

1000 Friends of Iowa, founded in 1998, is a statewide nonprofit organization focused on land use education. Its mission is to unite Iowans in efforts to protect farmland and natural areas, revitalize neighborhoods, towns and cities, and improve quality of life for future generations.

Additional details about each winning project and 1000 Friends of Iowa’s smart growth priorities can be found at


Press Release: 2014 Best Development Award Winners

2014 Best Development Awards Recipients

1000 Friends of Iowa is pleased to present the recipients of the 2014 Best Development Awards! Take a moment to learn more about each recipient and join us in congratulating them!

  • New Residential: Madison Flats, Des Moines
  • Renovated Residential: (Co-Winners) 1924 Leyner Street, Des Moines & 4818 Urbandale Avenue, Des Moines
  • New Commercial/Civic: Viking Center, Stanton
  • Renovated Commercial/Civic: Green Pilot Streetscape Project, West Union
  • Mixed Use: 421 Main Street, Slater
  • Leadership: Woodbine Main Street District, Woodbine
  • Stormwater Management: Bee Branch Watershed Flood Mitigation Project’s Green Alley Program, Dubuque


Excellent article on livable communities by Robert Steuteville, Better Cities & Towns

What is a livable community, anyway?

by Robert SteutevilleBetter Cities & Towns

A walkable community is the most common term to describe the alternative to drive-only suburbia. Walkability is easy to explain but uninspiring. Walking is so basic to human life that we often take it for granted. Perhaps a better term is livability.

Continue reading