Environment & Weather
Governor Branstad issues disaster proclamation for Louisa County PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 12:36

(DES MOINES) – Today, Governor Terry E. Branstad issued a proclamation of disaster emergency for Louisa County. This is in response to the flooding and severe weather that began June 26, 2014.

The governor’s proclamation activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Program.

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 on the Iowa Department of Human Services website. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.

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IOWANS SPEAK OUT IN SUPPORT OF NEW EPA CARBON LIMITS PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Susan Guy   
Monday, 21 July 2014 08:56

DES MOINES, Iowa – This week Iowans attended citizen field hearings in Storm Lake and Des Moines to speak out in support of the newly announced Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants, a major driver of climate change.

The citizen field hearings were held on Monday, July 14th (Storm Lake) and Tuesday, July 15th (Des Moines) and are sponsored by Iowa Interfaith Power & Light. The EPA has allowed for a 120-day public comment period on the proposed new carbon standards. The field hearings will be transcribed and comments from the hearings will be sent directly to the EPA. 

“I have firsthand experience of seeing the impacts of climate change on our environment,” said Rob Hack of Alta, Iowa who attended the hearing in Storm Lake. “We're doing the same thing over and over again and we believe that the President's EPA initiatives are going to hopefully make some changes.” Hack continued, “There are significant experiences we have been enduring in Iowa. There is reality to climate change. I'm not going to debate how much carbon is in the atmosphere, you know I'm not an atmospheric researcher, but there does need to be something different. As Albert Einstein said, if we continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting something different, that is insane.”

The following day in Des Moines, each citizen who spoke at the public hearing strongly supported the new EPA carbon pollution limits.

“My main message is to say I support the EPA carbon pollution standards for power plants,” said Margaret Vernon, an Indianola resident who attended the hearing. “I believe what the EPA is doing is a good step in the right direction.”

According to Bill Cox, “As a parent I am acutely aware of how air pollution can compromise health, especially those with lung disease who are the most vulnerable. We had a beloved daughter Kelly who had cystic fibrosis with an asthma complication.  She was a vibrant, active kid who participated in soccer and dance. She was one year from completing her bachelor's degree in nursing when she passed away in 1998. ... The fossil fuels industry frequently uses a scare tactic that higher environmental standards will lead to higher energy price. Our Kelly paid the ultimate price. ... I strongly support the EPA standards.”

Susan Guy, the Executive Director of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light was encouraged by the strong support for the new climate proposal. “It was nice to see Iowans from all walks of life, farmers, small business owners and parents, attend the hearings to speak out in support of the new EPA carbon standards,” said Guy. “We are extremely proud of the fact that Iowa’s citizens, businesses and utility companies have invested heavily in conservation and in renewable energy, and are well-prepared to meet the new carbon limits proposed by the EPA.”
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Watershed Rehabilitation Funding to Repair Dams in 26 States PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Sarah Maxwell   
Friday, 18 July 2014 13:38
Natural Resources Chief Joins House Ag Chairman to Highlight Projects that will Protect Lives, Provide Jobs

PERRY, Oklahoma, July 18, 2014 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that communities across the nation will benefit from a $262 million investment to rehabilitate dams that provide critical infrastructure and protect public health and safety. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller and Representative Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, were in Oklahoma to recognize the importance of this announcement to agriculture and communities nationwide.

"This investment will protect people and property from floods, help keep our water clean, and ensure that critical structures continue to provide benefits for future generations," Weller said. "Families, businesses and our agriculture economy depend on responsible management of dams and watersheds, and we are continuing to provide that support to these communities."

A number of the projects to be funded are in Oklahoma and Weller noted that the state had the first full watershed plan and structure completed by USDA on private lands in the 1940s. The 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Obama earlier this year, increased the typical annual investment in watershed rehabilitation by almost 21 fold, recognizing the critical role of these structures in flood management, water supply, and agricultural productivity. Earlier this week the President discussed the importance of infrastructure to job creation and commerce, noting that "Funding infrastructure projects helps our families, it fuels our economy, and it better positions America for the future."

From the 1940s through the 1970s, local communities using NRCS assistance constructed more than 11,800 dams in 47 states. These watershed management projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual benefits in reduced flooding and erosion damages, and improved recreation, water supplies and wildlife habitat for an estimated 47 million Americans.

Weller said that funding provided through today's announcement will provide rehabilitation assistance for 150 dams in 26 states. Funds will be used for planning, design or construction. Also, 500 dam sites will be assessed for safety through NRCS' Watershed Rehabilitation Program. For a complete list of the projects, please visit the FY 2014 Watershed Rehabilitation Projects Funding Table page. The projects were identified based on recent rehabilitation investments and the potential risks to life and property if a dam failure occurred. Overall, an estimated 250 thousand people will benefit as a result of improved flood protection made possible by these rehabilitated dams.

For example, Watershed Dam No. 62 in the Upper Black Bear Creek Watershed of Noble County, Okla., will be included in a USDA-funded rehabilitation partnership project. Currently awaiting rehabilitation design, the dam provides protection against flooding to about 550 Oklahomans who live and work downstream. Additionally, the dam protects seven county roads, one state highway, two U.S. highways and an interstate highway that, together, support about 16,200 vehicles daily. Among other critical infrastructure, the dam also protects power lines and railroad tracks. The rehabilitation project is expected to provide about $7.5 million in benefits including flood damage reduction, water supply and recreational benefits.

"These funds will go a long way towards improving the safety and continued benefits provided by these watershed structures," Weller said. "We will work closely with the local project sponsors to ensure that these dams continue to protect and provide water for communities and agriculture."

For more information, visit the Watershed Rehabilitation webpage or local USDA service center.

Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay)


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Wildfires Rage in the West PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Deborah Miley   
Friday, 18 July 2014 12:39
As hundreds of acres are going up in smoke in the Western United States, a State of Emergency has been declared in Oregon and Washington.  National Wildfire Suppression Association member companies have been called up to provide fire resources to assist in the battles in the west.

As many as 4000 private firefighters and the equipment they can provide are on the lines now, and thousands more are trained and ready to respond when the call comes in.  Records show that in 2012 private industry could provide up to 4500 pieces of equipment and 11,000 firefighters on an as needed basis.  "Our role is to supplement our agency partners resources when fires are stretching resources thin.", said Deborah Miley, NWSA Executive Director.

Historically private industry has provided up to 40% of the resources that can be used to combat wildfires in the nation. That can translate into an additional work force of up to 12,000 trained firefighters along with all the equipment including heavy equipment, crews, waterhandling, faller modules and many other specialized pieces of equipment. We provide resources under agreements/contracts to the agency on an as needed basis giving them the flexibility they need during peak fire season. The http://www.nwsa.us [National Wildfire Suppression Association __title__ National Wildfire Suppression Association] founded in 1991 currently represents over 200 private fire companies across the United States.

All firefighters go through rigorous training prior to fire season, and must comply with are standards put forth to become a wildland firefighter.  Justin Dice, a Task Force Leader for Patrick Environmental said, " I am constantly upgrading and taking on other classes to better round out my skill set, keeping himself and his fellow firefighters safer in the process."

There are also challenges that face all firefighters on the line, long days on the line, sleeping on the hard ground, and days away from family. But the rewards are great, helping people, seeing their gratitude, getting the opportunity to see nature in a way most people don't, and helping save our environment are some of the greatest benefits for those people that choose this profession.

So as the battle goes on against mother nature, private resources will stand side by side with our agency counterpart to create small army to complete the mission.

 
Braley Leads Iowa House Delegation Letter, Urges Obama to Approve Disaster Declaration for Iowa Counties PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Thursday, 17 July 2014 08:37

Iowa’s Congressional delegation writes joint letter supporting Gov. Branstad’s request

 

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today asked President Obama to quickly approve a federal disaster declaration requested by Governor Terry Branstad for 26 Iowa counties that sustained significant storm damage and flooding in recent weeks. Braley’s letter was also signed by Rep. Loebsack (IA-02), Rep. Latham (IA-03), and Rep. King (IA-04).

“Just weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit affected areas and see first-hand the damage these storms left across the state,” Braley said. “I will do everything possible to ensure that Iowa communities have the resources they need to recover and rebuild and I’m proud to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort.”

Braley’s letter was sent in support of Governor Branstad’s request for a presidential disaster declaration for the Iowa counties. Severe weather between June 14 and June 23, 2014 including tornadoes, flooding and heavy rains caused significant damage to infrastructure and property in parts of the state including the 1st District. The storms caused an estimated $11.6 million that could be eligible for Federal Public Assistance.

“We respectfully urge your swift consideration of this request and express our support for the designation,” Braley’s letter reads.

Branstad is requesting federal funding for the counties of Allamakee, Buchanan, Buena Vista, Butler, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Fayette, Franklin, Hancock, Humboldt, Ida, Kossuth, Lyon, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sac, Sioux, Winnebago, Winneshiek, Woodbury, and Wright.

The letter to President Obama can be found below:

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of a recent request from Governor Terry Branstad for a presidential disaster designation for 26 counties in Iowa. Severe weather, including storms, damaging winds, tornadoes, heavy rain, hail and flooding caused significant damage in those 26 counties.

Governor Branstad is requesting federal Public Assistance Program funding for the counties of Allamakee, Buchanan, Buena Vista, Butler, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Fayette, Franklin, Hancock, Humboldt, Ida, Kossuth, Lyon, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sac, Sioux, Winnebago, Winneshiek, Woodbury, and Wright. These counties experienced severe weather between June 14, 2014 and June 23, 2014.

This severe weather caused significant damage to infrastructure and private property. A joint federal, state, and local preliminary damage assessment determined that damage caused by the severe weather in these counties caused an estimated $11.6 million of damage that could be eligible for Public Assistance.  A major disaster declaration will help ensure these counties make a complete recovery.

We respectfully urge your swift consideration of this request and express our support for the designation. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,

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