Environment & Weather
Loebsack’s Measures to Protect Cedar Rapids from Future Flooding Signed into Law PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 09:06

Water Resources Reform and Development Act will create jobs, invest in our economy

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) was signed into law by President Obama.

“It has taken a long time to get this bill signed into law, but I am pleased Congress could finally come together and get it done. I have been fighting since the Floods of 2008 to get these flood protection measures passed and I am hopeful that after completion, the people of Cedar Rapids will be protected from future devastation,” said Loebsack. “This bill is an investment in our economy and will create jobs right here in our state. It is also very important to Iowa because it addresses our outdated, crumbling infrastructure including locks and dams, flood protection and Army Corps projects that are needed to keep our communities safe.”

Loebsack initiatives contained in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) include:

·         Flood protection measures for downtown Cedar Rapids that Loebsack fought to expand after the Floods of 2008;

·         Addressing critical flood protection and transportation concerns on the Mississippi River;

·         Legislation Loebsack cosponsored to explore the creation of public-private partnerships between the Army Corps of Engineers and private entities as financing alternatives for lock and dam capital projects.

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USDA Releases State by State Impacts of Limited Wildfire Suppression In Recent Years PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 15:29
List Highlights How Forest Restoration, Fire Preparedness and other Activities were Postponed or Canceled Due to Lack of Adequate Fire Suppression Budget

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released information showing how limited federal firefighting budgets have impacted states over the last two fiscal years (FYs 2012 and 2013).  The state-by-state report provides examples of how funding for local wildfire preparedness, forest restoration, and other activities in nearly every state across the country has been used to instead fight fires when wildfire suppression budgets did not fully cover firefighting costs.

The President's FY15 Budget proposed a new approach to addressing wildfire suppression costs, modeled after bipartisan legislation introduced in both houses of Congress.  The new proposal would set aside an emergency fund, similar to emergency funds already available for other natural disasters, to cover costs for the most catastrophic of wildfires, avoiding the pattern in recent years of raiding other critical programs.  This new approach provides certainty in addressing growing fire suppression needs while better safeguarding preparedness, maintenance and forest health programs from fund transfers that have diminished their effectiveness.

"With  longer and more severe wildfire seasons, the current way that the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior budget for wildland fire is unsustainable," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  "Until firefighting is treated like other natural disasters that can draw on emergency funding, firefighting expenditures will continue to disrupt forest restoration and management, research, and other activities that help manage our forests and reduce future catastrophic wildfire."

The wildfire season is 60-80 days longer and burning twice as many acres as compared to three decades ago. In the early 1990s, the Forest Service spent less than 15 percent of its budget on fire suppression. Today the agency spends 40 percent or more for fire suppression. Over the long term, this has meant the agency has shifted resources away from forest restoration and management, research, state and private forest assistance and other activities that help maintain our forests and reduce future catastrophic wildfire.

The Obama Administration's 2015 budget proposal creates a special disaster relief cap adjustment for use when costs of fighting the most extreme fires exceed Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets, as is expected to happen again this year. A May report showed that the median projected cost of fighting fires is nearly $1.8 billion this year, more than $470 million over the Forest Service's and Interior's firefighting budgets. In fact, these costs could reach as high as $1 billion more than the agencies currently have budgeted.

When actual firefighting costs exceed firefighting budgets, the Forest Service has to engage in what's known as "fire transfer," where funding for fire suppression is transferred from non-fire programs, including forest management activities that treat areas impacted by insects and disease and reduce the incidence and severity of future wildfires.

The table below provides examples of impacts that limited funding had on forest management activities in nearly every state across the country in FY 2012 and FY2013. During those two years, the Forest Service had to transfer $440 million and $505 million respectively from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. Over the last 12 years, a total of $3.2 billion was shifted from other programs that accomplish important forest management objectives.

The information provides examples from each state and do not include all state impacts or region-wide or national level impacts of fire transfer.  In addition, the table lists many activities that were "cancelled."  These activities may have been funded in subsequent years, but the delay still has a considerable impact on Forest Service operations.

In a small number of states, Forest Service operations were not directly impacted by forest borrowing in 2012 or 2013, but there are still long term impacts of the Forest Service's fire budget challenge.  Over the last several decades the Forest Service has had to frequently shift resources towards firefighting and away from other programs, impacting State forestry programs and outreach to private landowners.

View full report

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Governor Quinn Signs Bill to Ban Microbeads, Protect Illinois Waterways PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Monday, 09 June 2014 10:07

Illinois Now First State in the Nation to Prevent Use of Personal Care Products Containing Synthetic Plastics

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to make Illinois the first state in the nation to ban the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing synthetic plastic microbeads. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to protect our natural resources and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

“Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow,” Governor Quinn said. “Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources. We must do everything necessary to safeguard them."

Senate Bill 2727, sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Jaime Andrade Jr., makes Illinois the first state to ban microbeads in personal care products. The new law will require synthetic microbeads to be removed from manufacturing by the end of 2018 and bans the sale of such items by the end of 2019 in Illinois.

“Lake Michigan is a critically important natural resource for our state, and its health affects recreation, tourism and the flourishing of aquatic plant and animal species,” Senator Steans said. “I’m proud that Illinois is an environmental leader, taking the first step away from plastic microbeads toward natural exfoliants, and I’m optimistic that we’ve started a nationwide movement to protect not just the Great Lakes, but other bodies of water with high concentrations of microbeads.”

"This legislation is a tremendous first step in protecting our precious natural resource, Lake Michigan, from plastic pollutants,” Representative Andrade said. “This bill would not have been possible without relentless support from our Governor, the business community, and the environmental groups that worked together for this legislation to pass both the Senate and the House unanimously."

“We are very pleased today to see Governor Quinn take action to make Illinois the first state in the nation to ban microbeads from personal care products,” Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jennifer Walling said. “It is great to see Illinois be first in the nation at protecting our Great Lakes from plastics pollution."

Governor Quinn has been a strong advocate for protecting Illinois' environment, including the 2012 launch of the Illinois Clean Water Initiative (ICWI). The ICWI has created thousands of jobs across Illinois and allows local governments to access low-interest loans for a variety of wastewater and drinking water projects.

The Governor also signed legislation to prevent landfills from being built or expanding in Cook County and has dedicated $10 million in state funding to improve water quality in Chicago area waterways.

Under the Governor’s leadership, the Illinois EPA proposed three new recreational uses for the Chicago Area Waterway System and the Lower Des Plaines River. These new use designations were approved by USEPA and will lead to disinfection of wastewater treatment plant effluent discharging to the primary contact waterway segments.

Since Fiscal Year 2011, thirty-six grants totaling almost $15 million, have been made available to local units of government and other organizations to demonstrate green infrastructure best management practices to control stormwater runoff for water quality protection in Illinois.

Governor Quinn has also forged partnerships with seven nations through the Sister Rivers and Sister Lakes program to share ideas about such challenges as agricultural run-off, invasive species and pollution while boosting tourism and eco-awareness.

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Governor Branstad activates Iowa Individual Assistance Program for Cass, Harrison, Montgomery, Pottawattamie and Ringgold counties PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Monday, 09 June 2014 09:42

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad has issued a proclamation of disaster emergency and activated the Iowa Individual Assistance Program for Cass, Harrison, Montgomery, and Ringgold counties in response to recent storms. Additionally, Pottawattamie County, which was already declared to be under a disaster emergency on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, will be opened to individual assistance.

The Iowa Individual Assistance Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or a maximum annual income of $39,580, for a family of three. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and for the expense of temporary housing. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available at the “Disaster Assistance” link on the Iowa Department of Human Services website: www.dhs.iowa.gov.

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STATEWIDE CANVASS SUPPORTING NEW CLIMATE RULES KICKS OFF ON SUNDAY PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Brad Anderson   
Friday, 06 June 2014 14:57
IOWANS GATHER SIGNATURES IN SUPPORT OF NEW EPA CLIMATE RULES LIMITING CARBON POLLUTION
(Des Moines) – This Sunday Iowans will gather in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport to go door-to-door collecting signatures in support of the newly announced proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants, a major driver of climate change.

“As a parent of two young children, I believe it is my responsibility to ensure my kids are left with a sustainable climate, clean air to breath and an innovative, 21st century economy to start a career,” said Des Moines parent William Rock, who will be knocking doors in Des Moines on Sunday.  “I refuse to stand on the sidelines during this important debate on climate change, which is why I’m going door-to-door to urge Iowans to support the new rules to limit carbon pollution.”

The canvasses are open to the media and individual canvassers will be available to interview.

SUNDAY, JUNE 8TH:

DES MOINES:

•    What:  Launch of door-to-door canvass in support of new rules to limit carbon pollution.
•    Where:  Java Joes coffee, 214 4th St, Des Moines
•    When:  Launch is at 12:00.  Canvass is from 12:00 – 2:00 PM.
•    Media Contact:  Josh Skipworth, 319-499-0765, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

DAVENPORT:

•    What:  Launch of door-to-door canvass in support of new rules to limit carbon pollution.
•    Where:  Java Joes coffee, 836 E River Dr, Davenport
•    When:  Launch is at 11:00 AM.  Canvass is from 11:00 – 1:00 PM.
•    Media Contact:  Kirk Cychosz, 715-630-9912, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CEDAR RAPIDS:

•    What:  Launch of door-to-door canvass in support of new rules to limit carbon pollution.
•    Where:  New Bo Market, 1100 3rd St. SE, Cedar Rapids
•    When:  Launch is at 4:00 PM.  Canvass is from 4:00 – 6:00 PM.
•    Media Contact:  Tim Mahern-Macias, 402-980-9399, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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