House eyes money for park projects, post-derecho tree planting

By: - April 8, 2021 4:46 pm

Ledges State Park is in Boone County, Iowa. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Iowa House is looking to increase spending on state parks and to help replant Iowa’s trees after the devastating August derecho.

The House version of the budget also would slightly increase general fund spending and staffing at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, a rarity.

DNR Director Kayla Lyon on Thursday told the governor-appointed Natural Resource Commission she is encouraged by the House version of the budget. She noted that negotiations with the Senate continue. 

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency reported that House File 860 would add $1 million in general funds for work on state parks, which last year celebrated the centennial of the system. Another $2 million could come from the infrastructure fund, matching Gov. Kim Reynolds’ request. 

The House wants a general state appropriation of $12.1 million and the equivalent of 1,146 full time positions for DNR in fiscal year 2022. That would be an increase of $135,000 and 116.5 positions from this fiscal year, which ends June 30. 

In a move affecting the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the bill would create a standing appropriation of $11 million to upgrade equipment at convenience stores and other retail outlets. That appropriation would come if the Legislature approves a proposed biofuels standard, a priority of Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

The Resources Enhancement and Protection Fund (REAP), would get a status quo appropriation of $12 million. The bill would allow DNR to use up to $1 million from the Open Spaces Account for park maintenance and repair in fiscal year 2022. 

DNR would be required to study parking at state parks during peak times, under the measure. 

House File 862, the infrastructure appropriations bill, would provide $2 million for infrastructure improvements at state parks. 

The bill includes $250,000 for tree planting after the derecho storm in August flattened a quarter of Iowa’s trees

The $9.6 million for lake restoration, dredging and water quality projects, matching both DNR’s request and Reynolds’ budget.

The bill also would provide $1 million for work on water trails and removal or alteration of low-head dams, double what Reynolds budgeted. 

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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.

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