Council works with local leaders to protect karst

Bloody Run in Northeast Iowa

posted on Monday, January 30, 2017

The Council is working with local leaders in northeast Iowa to find ways to protect uniquely vulnerable karst areas from inappropriate siting of large animal feeding operations. The natural resources of the karst region are being threatened by large animal feeding operations in locations that threaten drinking water aquifers and high quality recreational waters.

Allamakee and Winneshiek counties have passed recent resolutions calling for the Iowa Legislature to enact a temporary suspension of siting large animal feeding operations while the state reviews the master matrix and rules governing these facilities and application of the tons of manure they generate. Other counties have passed or are considering related resolutions.

Similar efforts to strengthen animal feeding operation rules have been passed in Wisconsin and Arkansas, with a focus on karst areas. IEC believes these initiatives can serve as models for Iowa. During a suspension, a broad stakeholder group could look at current studies, practices and potential impacts, and draft revised recommendations.

Inappropriate CAFO siting and weak manure management rules are a serious concern across the state, but are a special threat in northeast Iowa’s karst region. This area is characterized by limestone bedrock that is easily dissolved by water flowing above and below ground.  Karst areas also have shallow soils above bedrock that limit the landscape’s ability to filter pollutants.  Groundwater and surface waters in karst areas are highly vulnerable to contamination as fractured bedrock, sinkholes and disappearing streams allow contaminated surface water to flow quickly into aquifers, springs and streams with little or no soil to act as a filter. 

The safety of drinking water from wells and surface waters is a major concern where these karst features make water supplies uniquely susceptible to pollution.  This area is also home to many of Iowa’s most-valued recreational waterways that attract residents and visitors for trout fishing, canoeing and other outdoor activities. Significant local and state resources have been invested to restore and protect aquatic life and recreation in these waters, where decades of public investments in water quality and aquatic habitat have helped make the area a tourist destination.

Photos Taken by Kevin Hansen.

  1. cafos
  2. iowa legislature
  3. karst
  4. land stewardship
  5. water quality