IEC Reaches Successful Settlement in Lawsuit With IDNR

posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2018 in Water and Land News

Des Moines – The Iowa Environmental Council (IEC), Iowa’s largest environmental coalition, announces a successful legal action to protect an Iowa water.

IEC filed a Petition for Judicial Review on April 30, 2018, in District Court against the State of Iowa, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) on behalf of its members and two landowners along Yeader Creek in Des Moines. The Petition argued that IDNR issued a stormwater discharge permit that did not protect water quality in the creek as required by state and federal law.

Yeader Creek is located in the southeast portion of Des Moines and feeds into Easter Lake, a popular recreation area currently undergoing a multimillion dollar watershed restoration project to improve water quality, protect wildlife, and enhance recreation opportunities in the area.

When the permit issued by IDNR in May 2017 weakened protection for the creek, IEC submitted multiple public comments expressing concerns that elements of this permit violated the law. “It is unfortunate that to have our comments taken seriously and to ensure Yeader Creek was properly protected, we had to challenge this faulty permit via the courts,” says Jennifer Terry, Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council.

After the petition was filed, the IDNR revised the permit to address the IEC’s concerns. When the amended permit was reissued on August 1, IEC filed to dismiss its petition. Terry says the organization takes its watchdog role seriously and will resort to litigation again if comments and other collaboration on future policy issues see no meaningful result.

Yeader Creek Impact

Yeader Creek has failed to meet state water quality standards for decades. IDNR first listed the Creek as one of the state’s “impaired waters” in 1998, after finding that the stream was in violation of Iowa’s water quality standards and was too polluted to support aquatic life. A 1997 report noted that the water had a greenish color smelling of wastewater, there were no fish present, and the exposed creek bottom was an unusual rust color.

Since then, Yeader Creek has significantly improved, but the stream is still listed as “impaired” due to low dissolved oxygen levels in the stream.  

Says Terry, “There is a special provision in the Clean Water Act, the anti-backsliding provision, which is meant to ward off this kind of rollback of protections. Our suit forced revision of the permit to enforce protections as required by law that will ultimately help to further improve Yeader Creek.”