Category Archives: Featured

Climate Action at the local level

DES MOINES: The city of Des Moines is one step closer to moving forward with developing a climate action plan. On May 6, 2019, during a City Council work session, Eric Giddens of the University of Northern Iowa Center on Energy and Environmental Education discussed the results of a newly completed Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for the city of Des Moines. Check it out here.

The city of Des Moines adopted the energy and water benchmarking ordinance at its June 3rd meeting. The much-watered down ordinance that was passed is not the end of it. The council will revisit the ordinance and a proposed change in August.

Later in the year, the city of Des Moines will be voting to approve an MOU with UNI’s Center for Energy and environmental Education to start the process of creating a citywide climate action plan! These efforts are being lead by the Des Moines Citizens Taskforce on Sustainability.

IOWA CITY: The city of Iowa City adopted a Climate Action plan in 2018. Check out their plan here. We appreciate the cities leadership in creating and adopting the plan. Now we must ensure the city implements to GHG reduction steps laid out in the plan. Stay tuned for how you can get involved.

AMES: The city has established key energy goals to reduce their green house gas emissions. In addition, the city is in the process of updating their greenhouse gas emissions inventory and creating a community solar garden. A community group – the Ames Climate Action Team – has formed to help push the city to do even more to address climate change.

Help Save Energy Efficiency.

Updated:

Right  now, making it’s way through the Iowa State House is a horrible bill  – Senate File (SF) 2311 (formerly SSB 3093). The bill has passed out of committees in both houses and was passed out of the full senate.  The bill is now awaiting debate in the full house. This bill has sweeping changes that decimates energy efficiency programs, potentially losing over 80% of the current funds, it essentially deregulates utilities in Iowa, leaving all utility customers vulnerable to soaring prices and the whims of the utility companies, and it makes it easier for gas pipelines to be built in Iowa.

If enacted, Senate File (SF) 2311 (formerly SSB 3093), which is being championed by Iowa’s investor owned utilities, would:
  • Effectively deregulate Iowa’s energy utilities;
  • Slash energy efficiency programs, potentially by up to 80% or more;
  • Make it easier for gas pipelines to build in Iowa.
  • And though the bad solar provisions were removed, there is still an effort to put them back into the bill which if added back in, could essentially kill rooftop and community solar by allowing utility companies to discriminate against solar customers.
So what does that mean for you? It means:
This bill is bad for Iowans. Energy efficiency is a key factor that keeps utility rates low in Iowa. If passed,  utility rates will go up. Low income people will lose out on energy efficiency and weatherization programs  programs and utility companies can build unnecessary fossils fuel generation plants and charge all of their customers to foot the bill.
We could see a potential loss of over 20,000 jobs in the energy efficiency sectors and and a loss of over $200,000,000 that would have been savings for utility customers.
If you are asking what we can do about it, keep reading!

Talking points for the overall bill:  Click here.

Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet: Click here.

Another bad bill that is now making it’s way through the senate is SSB 3078. This bill proposes to eliminate all energy efficiency programs. It is on the Ways and Means subcommittee schedule for Monday, March 19 at 3:00 p.m. The subcommittee is made up of Senator Fenestra, Senator Hogg, and Senator R.Schmidt. Please contact all three of them and ask them to oppose SSB 3078.  Click here to find their contact info.

Take Action to Proct Topsoil

Protecting topsoil is one of 1000 Friends of Iowa’s highest priorities. In 2015, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Commission gutted the requirement to maintain at least 4 inches of topsoil on residential construction sites. Because topsoil is so crucial for flood mitigation, carbon sequestering, filtering out pollutants to keep our water clean and for growing the pants and food we depend on;  we are turning to local communities to take action to protect our topsoil.

To help communities and Iowa residents take action to adopt topsoil restoration and protection ordinances, 1000 Friends of Iowa has created a handy toolkit with how to’s, talking points and sample ordinances that we like. Get our toolkit here.

Take action! — Communities within the Greater Des Moines Metro Area have been talking about adopting a region-wide topsoil ordinance for a couple of years, but have been dragging their heels. The time to act is now!

Please do two things:

  1. Write a letter to the editor to the Des Moines Register calling on metro cities to adopt the topsoil ordinance. Submit your letters here.
  2. Contact your council members and mayor. Go to you cities home page and click on city council for contact information.

2017-2018 Topsoil ordinances

Congratulations to both the cities of Clive and Cedar Rapids for being the most recent communities to adopt topsoil restoration ordinances!

In 2017, we will reach out to additional communities around the state to adopt similar ordinances. Our soil is too precious not to.

Click here to download the toolkit

Click here to to see the Topsoil Restoration Guide from King County, WA

Click here to view the preliminary ordinance for the city of Clive

Let us know if you take this ordinance to your community by emailing us at kfoi@1000friendsofiowa.org 

Why it matters:

* Topsoil retention is very important to urban landscapes — growing plants need healthy soil. New homeowners with no topsoil left in place are often faced with very expensive soil remediation to even begin to establish healthy lawns, trees, and gardens. The savings to the building and construction industry (numbers that keep changing and are unsubstantiated) comes at a great cost to the homeowner and to the watershed.

* Rain events quickly wash fertilizers, also called nutrients, off lots that have been stripped of topsoil. This pollutes our rivers, lakes, and streams. Furthermore, it is costly for the landowner who must spend extra money for repeat fertilizer applications. Keeping soil in place contributes to natural storm water management solutions and helps build healthy, green, and more sustainable neighborhoods for future generations.

Stay updated on our topsoil protection actions at www.1000friendsofiowa.org.

Letter to DNR about 4″ topsoil rule

Dear Mr. Griffin:

I intend to appear at today’s public hearing regarding the 4-in topsoil rule, but have commitments at work that will prevent me from appearing before 4 pm. In the meantime, please accept the following as my official comment as a private citizen regarding the proposed rule.

I am writing to support the department’s adoption of the top soil preservation provision as a part of the NPDES General Permit #2 as it relates to construction site management.

As you know, a spirited debate is underway in Iowa about various farm practices that are thought to contribute to declines in water quality, soil conservation, and land stewardship in our state. There are good people doing great work in rural Iowa to address these issues, but there is much yet to do. There have been some unfortunate characterizations made about motives and efforts of some ag interests that detracts from the progress accomplished and the journey yet begun.

That said, it is very unfortunate that opposition to the top soil preservation rule focuses on the costs to one industry, without also considering the benefits to all Iowans that such a rule will provide. It is inequitable on the one hand to demand that farmers undertake conservation measures on their lands to benefit themselves, landowners downstream, and the citizens of Iowa, and, on the other, exempt another industry from this responsibility especially when the results of poor land management are identical. In fact, opponents of this rule will be rewarded for undertaking destructive activities that undo conservation projects already in place on ag lands being converted to urban uses.

This conversion is happening at a rapid pace. According to my research of the USDA Census of Agriculture, over the past 25 years more than 1 million acres of farmland formerly in farms in Iowa are apparently no longer being used for farm uses. Some might argue those acres have flowed down the Mississippi River and are now deposited on the floor of the Caribbean. More likely, these lands have been converted to residential, commercial or public use. Nonetheless, this loss means fewer acres available to feed the world over the coming generations. If the soil remains partially intact under new development, perhaps some of these acres can be reclaimed in the future for ag uses.

It seems to me the first duty of any landowner in Iowa is to preserve our soil. Iowans have been blessed with soils of unbelievable fertility. Our soils are the envy of the world and comprise a limited resource for humanity that must not be squandered, wasted, degraded or discarded. And yet, a proposal to require replacement of just a fraction of the topsoil on a typical Iowa construction site — with all of the benefits such as rule obtains for water retention, fertility for garden and ornamental plants, water quality of runoff — is seen as too heavy handed, too expensive, and too much of a threat to personal liberty as to outweigh the natural and global benefit — and I daresay the moral imperative – of replacing a hand width depth of disturbed soil. This is desecration of the worst sort and will be rightly condemned by future generations.

Your department has proposed a reasonable, if somewhat timid, requirement that is in the best interests of Iowans. I urge your department to adopt the rule as written and explore additional regulatory remedies to ensure that Iowa’s soil is not treated like dirt to be scraped off and sold by the ton.

Sincerely,

John Morrissey

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