Second state panel approves $100 million natural resources budget

By: - September 15, 2020 3:35 pm

The Iowa Environmental Council is working to improve water quality in Iowa’s lakes, including West Okoboji Lake, shown here. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The state would increase spending on lake restorations, water trails and park improvements as part of a proposed 2021-22 budget approved by a second state panel Tuesday. 

The governor-appointed Environmental Protection Commission approved the $100.1 million proposal. The budget would increase spending $2.3 million, or about 2.3%, from the current year’s budget. 

The only increases in the budget — which was largely held steady under orders from the Department of Management — would be:

  • Adding $1 million to the previous $8.6 million for lake water quality improvements, in increase of 11.6%.
  • A proposed allocation of $500,000 for water trails and low-head dam mitigation, double the current level. 
  • A total of $2 million for park infrastructure improvements, also twice this year’s allocation. 

The proposed budget of $100.1 million, up from this year’s $97.9 million figure, would include $50 million in non-general-fund spending. Most of that would go to fish and wildlife operations, with small amounts to groundwater work and an underground storage tank program.

Spending under the Environmental First program, which also comes from gambling taxes, would remain at $24 million. That would include the Resource Enhancement and Protection program ($12 million), parks maintenance and operations ($6.2 million), along with air and water quality monitoring, livestock confinement programs and floodplain management.

General fund spending of just under $14 million would help pay for department operations, floodplain management and forestry. 

The other citizen panel overseeing the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Natural Resource Commission, approved the budget Sept. 10. It now goes on to Gov. Kim Reynolds for consideration before she submits an overall budget proposal to the Legislature. 

In other action, the commission heard from DNR staff about work to improve water service in Casey, which straddles the line between Adair and Guthrie counties. Casey’s water system has battled both drought and water pipe leaks. 

The town has shut off service to some residents to rebuild the supply in the water tower, DNR officials said. Recent rains also helped, they added. The town also has been discussing options with a local rural water system. 

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.