Data to support DNR to IDALS handoff?

At IPP we like to deal with numbers and facts and thus far it seems that those that would support a move have been few and far between.

Will Hoyer
Will Hoyer

Recently Governor Terry Branstad made public his support for HF643 and SF500, the bills that would transfer Clean Water Act non-point pollution programs from the Iowa DNR to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) along with monitoring and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) programs.

There are all sorts of issues raised by this and apparently the EPA has expressed concern with the idea.

At IPP we like to deal with numbers and facts and thus far it seems that those that would support a move have been few and far between. I recently sent a very short and direct email to the Governor’s office. In it I had a very pointed request. I wrote:

“Please provide me with a fact or two that support your claims that non-point programs would be better off in IDALS.”

I thought that for an issue this controversial the Governor would at least try to make a solid case for it and that maybe the Governor’s Office did have some data to support the idea that this would be beneficial in some way. Instead, this is what I got:

“Currently, both DNR and IDALS manage a variety of areas relating to water quality for the state of Iowa. Specifically with the non-point source program, IDALS currently manages the on-the-ground projects through the federal funding directed to the State of Iowa for the 319 program under the Clean Water Act through a contractual agreement with DNR. In the last fiscal year, IDALS administered over $1.8 million of on-the-ground projects related to the non-point source program.

“With the ultimate goal of creating more on-the-ground projects, Governor Branstad supports the concept of this legislation and will work with state legislators to make needed changes to the legislation to better fit the program implementation needs of DNR and IDALS. While the legislation moves the administration of the program funds to IDALS, Governor Branstad would still envision IDALS managing the on-the-ground projects and DNR managing the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDLs) for the projects, while asking each department to continue to look for ways to streamline program efficiencies. By creating more on-the-ground projects, we hope to improve the condition of Iowa’s waterways, prevent future floods and best utilize funding sources for projects.”

Not a very persuasive argument, if you ask me.

Based on this it appears that the Governor’s public support for this rests on an as-of-yet unsubstantiated claim that more “on-the-ground” projects will be created. Those opposed to transferring authority have provided several fact- and data-driven reasons to oppose it. These points bring up serious questions about what problem this is transfer is trying to solve.

As is the case all too often, facts and data just do not seem to play a prominent role in making public policy.

Posted by Will Hoyer, Research Associate

Author: iowapolicypoints

Iowa Policy Points is a blog of Common Good Iowa, a new organization built on a collective 50 years of experience of two respected Iowa organizations — the Child and Family Policy Center and the Iowa Policy Project. Learn more at

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