Nebraska Public Power

Key Findings: The Costs and Benefits of Public Power in Nebraska

This is such an exceptional explanation of the key issues within Nebraska’s power grid production and pricing that it is worth sharing verbatim. – Dale Leuck, Solarcon LLC
I.  General
• Public power companies provided electricity service to more than 2,000 communities across the nation Nebraska, Iowa Electric Rate Increase
in 2015. Supporters argue that the significant benefits of public power are due to local ownership and
lower costs. Without a required profit margin, along with tax-exempt financing, which is priced at below
market interest rates, public power entities are able to pass savings along to electricity consumers. In
addition, public utilities are exempt from paying income and property taxes, which proponents claim also
lowers rates.
• The legislative environment in Nebraska poses barriers to independent and private investment in the
state. Nebraska’s public power monopoly discourages private investment in new power generation
because private companies are unable to enter into power purchase agreements, which would enable
development.
• The cost to produce electricity in Nebraska depends considerably on the prices of fuel used in
generation. Statewide, Nebraska relies heavily on coal as the primary source of fuel. Therefore, electricity
rates correlate with coal prices in the market. Coal has been a relatively cheaper source of fuel for
Nebraska due to the state’s proximity to a large coal supply from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.
• Despite rapid declines in natural gas prices due to advanced extraction techniques, it represents less
than 1.5 percent of input fuel for Nebraska electricity producers. The drop in natural gas prices has
significantly lowered wholesale electricity prices, reducing the profits that Nebraska’s utilities used in the
past to help keep rates low. Profits generated from wholesale sales have historically helped subsidize
rates for Nebraska’s consumers.
II.  Higher and Rapid Growth in Nebraska Electricity Prices
• Recent data show that Nebraska’s electricity rates in Nebraska have grown at a much faster pace than
in other states. Consequently, Nebraska no longer delivers electricity to the consumer at a rate below
competitor states.
• Nebraska’s overall electricity prices are projected to rise from 103.6 percent of the West North Central
(WNC) 2 median in 2013 to 106.7 percent in 2018.
• Nebraska’s electricity prices have grown from 96.2 percent and 67.6 percent of the 2008 regional and
national medians to 103.6 percent and 95.9 percent of the 2013 medians, respectively. (Figure 1.1)
• The shutdown and recovery of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station was a significant driver of
Nebraska’s rapid growth in electricity prices beyond 2011. Recommissioning ultimately cost ratepayers
an estimated $177 million, 3 which is approximately 18 percent of OPPD’s yearly operating expenses. 4
III.  Nebraska’s Volatile Electricity Prices
• Electricity price data between 2005 and 2014 show that Nebraska’s volatility in overall electricity prices
was the highest in the WNC region and 45.4 percent above the regional average.
• Calculations indicate that residential and industrial electricity rates for Nebraska were much more
volatile than for any other state in the WNC region. Nebraska also had the greatest industrial electricity
price volatility among all U.S. states.
IV.  Higher Industrial Rates and Economic Development
• Nebraska’s average industrial rates have trended upward over the past decade, surpassing and
remaining above the national average since 2012. (Table 3.1)
• Nebraska’s 2014 industrial electricity rate of 7.30 cents per kWh exceeded both the WNC median of 7.04
and the U.S. industrial rate of 7.01. (Figure 1.2)
• For 2014, Nebraska ranked in the top half of WNC states in terms of overall competitiveness of its
residential rates, but in the bottom half in commercial and industrial rates. Only North Dakota and
Kansas have industrial electricity rates higher than Nebraska. (Table 2.1).
• From 2005 to 2014, Nebraska had the second highest annual growth in industrial electricity rates in
the region with an annual growth more than double that of the nation. Additionally, Nebraska had the
greatest industrial electricity price volatility among all comparison WNC states and the median U.S.
state. (Table 3.2)
o This is a consideration for economic development because it renders Nebraska a less attractive
state for industrial growth, and is contrary to optimum electricity pricing strategies.
o Nebraska’s climbing industrial rate has restrained the state’s economic growth. 5 (Figure 3.1)
o Energy costs are a sizable business and farm expense. As such, the state’s industrial rate
influences the profitability of firms and incentivizes them to invest, locate and expand in area with
lower rates.
     – Manufacturing
Nebraska’s rapidly growing industrial rate had a negative and statistically significant
impact on the state’s competitive manufacturing job gains.
  1. From 2008 to 2013, the competitive disadvantage of higher industrial rates, which rose from 5.16 to 7.44 cents per kWh, cost Nebraska an estimated 3,729 manufacturing jobs.Nebraska Public Power
  2. From 2008 to 2013, a 10 percent increase in Nebraska’s industrial electricity rates resulted in a loss of 2.3 percent in manufacturing jobs over and above changes at the regional and national levels (Tables A3.1 and A3.2).
  3. The Nebraska food processing industry is the fourth largest electricity user among manufacturers.
Furthermore, Nebraska has a significant share of the nation’s employment in this industry.
Thus, Nebraska’s rising and high industrial electricity rates present a significant financial hurdle for one of the state’s most important industries (Table 3.6)
     – Agriculture
 Over the last five years, it is estimated that rising industrial electricity rates added
significantly to farming expenses.
1.The EIA (U.S. Energy Information Association) classifies Nebraska’s electricity rates for
agriculture industrial, and since Nebraska has a large number of farms that utilize
irrigation, the state ranks third highest in terms of industrial users. 6
Low industrial rates are vital to the profitability and sustainability of farmers and agricultural producers. Recent
trends in the industrial rate, however, have been unfavorable to Nebraska’s farmers.
2. The expenditures in electricity for Nebraska’s agricultural sector have increased by 107.9
percent from 2004 to 2013, with a record high of $310.2 million in 2012. 7 (Figure 4.1)
3. Industrial electricity rates and total electricity expenditures in Nebraska’s agricultural
sector have gone hand in hand, increasing significantly together. From 2001 to 2013, a
10 percent increase in industrial rates produced a 3.6 percent increase in farm
expenses throughout WNC states.
4. Over the last five years, a total of $413.3 million of added farming expense for Nebraska
can be attributed to increasing industrial electricity rates. (Table A5.1, Figure 4.3)
5. The increasing trend in industrial rates is a threat to Nebraska’s farmers and agriculture
producers, particularly because many farmers rely on irrigation systems that are intensive
users of electricity.8
V. Urban versus Rural Electricity Pricing in Nebraska
• Nebraska’s public utilities, with a higher proportion of industrial customers, generally charge industrial
rates significantly higher than utilities that serve primarily residential customers. (Table 4.3)
• During peak times, mainly July and August, demand for electricity, particularly from irrigation systems,
sometimes exceeds capacity and forces local utilities to buy excess power from sources in other states,
which if purchased at elevated prices contributes to higher overall rates.
• As expected, the costs of electricity lack uniformity across the state. Rural areas, particularly in the south
and west portions of the state, have higher average industrial rates than utilities that serve more urban
areas.
• Currently, public utilities hold the right of first refusal for power-related development projects, especially
transmission projects. This gives incumbent developers the right of first refusal when bidding on state
transmission line projects. Some politicians have suggested that this right results in a less competitive
bidding process.9
This argument centers on the idea that the right of first refusal for incumbent developers discourages companies from participating in a competitive bidding process. Rather, to
increase competition in the bidding process, non-incumbent private companies should be welcomed and incentivized to bid on projects in Nebraska’s electricity industry.
VI. The President’s CO2 Reduction Program and Its Impact on Nebraska
• The Obama Administration’s planned reduction in coal electricity generation will have a larger negative
impact on Nebraska than on other WNC and U.S. states.
o Nebraska’s usage of coal as a fuel source for electricity generation in 2013 was more than twice that
of the median for all U.S. states.
o Coal is a relatively cheaper source of fuel for Nebraska due to the state’s proximity to a large coal
supply from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.
o Except for solar, conventional coal is expected to experience the highest level of uncertainty
regarding the range of expected prices from 2015 to 2020.
o Due to Nebraska’s heavy reliance on coal for electricity generation and the President’s coal
reduction program, input price volatility will be high, likely leading to higher volatility in electricity
prices.
o Nebraska prices, by boosting wind production 10 percent and by reducing coal production by 10
percent, would increase its overall electricity prices per kWh by 7.3 percent by 2018. (Figure 2.3)
o In 2013, federal subsidies per kWh were 3.50 cents per kWh for wind, but a much lower 0.04 cents
per kWh for coal. Without the subsidies, coal electricity production costs are significantly below
that of wind.
o Without federal electricity subsidies, Iowa’s electricity rates would exceed those of Nebraska.
o As a result of Nebraska’s high coal usage and the President’s coal reduction program, Nebraska’s
electricity price growth will likely exceed that of states that use less coal for electricity generation.
VII. Benefits and Costs of Privatization of Nebraska’s Electricity Generators
• As a result of the limited market, Nebraska’s two producers of electricity, OPPD and NPPD, are too small
to take advantage of economies of scale that exist in power generation. Economies of scale are the cost
advantages that a producer gains when more power can be generated on a larger scale and with lower
input costs. These savings are typically achieved by satisfying the demands of an entire market with
fixed costs spread out over more units of output.
• Between 2009 and 2014, Nebraska’s electric generators’ ratios of operating expenses to operating
revenues were significantly above that of Mid-American Energy and the industry median.
o The median industry operating expenses to operating revenues ratio was 82.9 percent, which was
well below OPPD’s 89.0 percent and NPPD’s 88.1 percent.
o Were both OPPD and NPPD able to achieve the industry average, savings would be significant. OPPD
and NPPD could save an estimated $79.7 million and $85.7 million respectively for 2014. (Table 5.4)
• If privatized, Nebraska utilities would begin paying the relevant property tax rate rather than the current
payments in lieu of taxes. The gain for local property taxing units would have been $61 million for 2014.
• Privatization would result in the loss of financial benefit of issuing tax exempt bonds. This loss is
estimated to be $39.7 million for 2014.
Solar Energy

What did Edison Have To Say?

(NY Times Magazine) When Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced his vision of development in New York City over the next 25 years, he highlighted a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent. To anyone who has studied the history of power consumption in the United States, his proposal sounded a curious echo. New York, after all, was home to one of the country’s first central power stations, built by Thomas Edison in 1882. No individual deserves more credit, or blame, for America’s voracious electricity consumption than Edison, who conceived not only that generating station but also the notoriously inefficient incandescent bulb and a slew of volt-thirsty devices.

Yet Edison, godfather of electricity-intensive living, was also an unlikely green pioneer whose ideas about renewable power still resonate today. At the turn of the 20th century, when Edison was at the height of his career, the notion that buildings, which now account for more than a third of all energy consumed in the United States, would someday require large amounts of power was only just coming into focus. Where that power would come from — central generating stations or in-home plants; fossil fuels or renewable resources — was still very much up for debate.

A 1901 article about Edison in The Atlanta Constitution described how his unorthodox ideas about batteries could bring wattage to the countryside: “With a windmill coupled to a small electric generator,” a rural inhabitant “could bottle up enough current to give him light at night.” The earliest wind-powered house was fired up in Cleveland in 1888 by the inventor Charles Brush, but Edison aspired to take the technology to the masses. He made drawings of a windmill to power a cluster of four to six homes, and in 1911 he pitched manufacturers on building a prototype.

Edison’s batteries also fueled some cars and trucks, and he joined forces with Henry Ford to develop an electric automobile that would be as affordable and practical as the Model T. The Constitution article discussed plans to let people recharge their batteries at plug-in sites along trolley lines; the batteries could also be refreshed courtesy of the home windmill.

Talented not only at devising new technologies, Edison was an entrepreneur keenly skilled at selling them. If residents in areas without central power gained access to electrical current, he surely knew that more consumers might buy his batteries, bulbs and phonographs. Finding ways to get voltage to people without it made good business sense.

Edison also, like other scientists of his day, was beginning to understand even then that fossil fuels wouldn’t last forever. In 1913 Scientific American published an issue on energy problems, observing: “The question of the possible exhaustion of the world’s oil supply deserves the gravest consideration. There is every indication that we are face to face with this possibility.” Articles delved into technologies to capture the power of the sun, the wind, the tide and even the earth’s rotation. Inventors like Edison were modernizers who couldn’t bear the inefficiency of letting an abundant energy source like wind go untapped.

In 1912 Edison unveiled an energy-self-sufficient home in West Orange, N.J. Billed as an experimental “Twentieth Century Suburban Residence” and designed to showcase his batteries, it bulged with luxuries like air heating and cooling units, a clothes-washing machine, an electric cooking range and, of course, plenty of light bulbs. Completely off the grid, the house received its juice from a generator that charged a bank of 27 cells in the basement. For this first attempt, Edison used a gas-run motor, but evidence suggests that he hoped to hook up to a wind turbine. The system would allow the prospective homeowner to be, according to The New York Times, “utterly and for all time independent of the nearness or farness of the big electric companies.”

The conglomerates struggling to control the nascent energy sector regarded that as precisely the problem. For them, a world of independence, in which householders created their own power using renewable resources, was a nightmare. The companies’ profits depended on electricity from power plants run on cheap fossil fuels.

In the end, Edison’s proudly free-standing Suburban Residence was hooked up to the grid, and neither his in-home wind-generated electricity plant nor his battery-powered vehicles ever reached the mass market. In 1931, not long before he died, the inventor told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Commercial Energy Savings

Four Things Office Buildings Must Do to Stay Ahead of Competition

(BisNow) As more companies focus on corporate sustainability programs to rein in costs, it’s critical for office owners and managers to focus on sustainability and technology to stay one step ahead in attracting tenants. Riverview Realty Partners president and CEO Jeff Patterson and general manager Susan Hammer tell us what it takes to make buildings competitive in today’s changing environment.

1) Keeping on Top of Certifications

If a landlord wants to attract large national and multi-national firms, obtaining LEED, WiredScore, and Energy Star certifications are increasingly important. “We implement sustainability measures as a matter of course in order to position space to be leased by those tenants,” Jeff says. Riverview’s trophy asset, AMA Plaza at 330 N Wabash in Chicago, has LEED Gold, Wired Gold, BOMA 360 and IREM sustainable property certifications, and it’s also a multiple BOMA/Chicago TOBY winner. AMA Plaza has also earned an Energy Star score of 86, with energy efficiency performance better than 86% of other buildings in its peer group. (The building is home to the American Medical Association’s national headquarters and significant tenants like BDO, Latham & Watkins and SmithBucklin.) The Riverview-managed tower at Atlanta’s 100 Peachtree Street is BOMA 360 certified and in the process of acquiring LEED Gold, while its 411 East Wisconsin is the largest multi-tenanted LEED Gold building in Downtown Milwaukee, as well as having an Energy Star score of 91.

2) Driving Energy and Occupancy Costs Down

Jeff notes tenants take occupancy costs into consideration before leasing, and sustainability certifications like those mentioned above help quantify how much an owner’s sustainability efforts have contributed to a reduction in operating costs. For instance, Riverview recently replaced all the lighting in 411 East Wisconsin’s common areas with LED lighting and is currently undertaking chiller replacements and retrofits with a benchmark of saving a minimum of 20% in energy costs.

3) Having Robust Connectivity

The conversion of many tenants to cloud computing is also helping cut occupancy costs, since more rely on off-site servers for their IT needs, thus reducing building energy usage. Susan says making a property efficient for cloud computing means making sure the building has multiple fiber entry points and risers, as well as distributed antenna systems that enable the receipt of strong signals from multiple wireless and cellular carriers so tenants can get a phone signal no matter where they are in the building. It also requires high-speed connections with many different carriers and the ability to add more as technology advances. For instance, AMA Plaza currently supports AT&T, Cogent, Comcast, RCN, Level 3 and Zayo Group connections (WiredScore measures a building’s level of connectivity). 100 Peachtree was the first in Atlanta to achieve Wired Gold certification, and the 411 Wisconsin is aiming to be the first in Milwaukee to achieve the certification.
4) Providing a Strong IP Backbone

Building owners also need a state-of-the-art energy management system to maximize the energy sustainability of a property. That means these properties need an Internet protocol (IP) fiber backbone in order for the system to visualize building energy use on a second-by-second basis, allowing management to monitor and control energy costs in real time and provide access for tenant applications, HVAC, security and surveillance systems, and tenant access systems. “Your buildings need to be plug and play, and you need to be ahead of tenant technology needs,” Susan says.

Maximizing Solar

Top Trends Property Managers Are Watching in 2016

From BisNow, here is a look ahead to 2016 commercial property management issues:
Space Utilization
As tenants fit more employees into less space, property managers are asking how they can deliver a comfortable environment, David says—this densification impacts HVAC and electrical capacity in office buildings, as well as parking ratios in suburban offices. Green Rebates David, who’s based in Chicago’s LEED Platinum 71 South Wacker (also known as the Hyatt Center) notes there are more rebate programs being introduced that relate to projects aimed at improving energy efficiency. These are decreasing the economic payback on upgrades, making them more advantageous for owners.
Certifications Beyond Building Operations
For years, we’ve had certifications that addressed building operations. While we haven’t seen it quite yet, David expects a greater move to certification programs that address occupants and their experiences. For instance, the WELL Building Standard measures and monitors building features that impact health and well-being, such as air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.
Rising Real Estate Taxes and Insurance Rates
As owners deal with rising real estate taxes and insurance rates, especially in areas vulnerable to weather incidents, it’s important to go back to the ABCs of management and take a hard look at expenses, says Mark (right, with HSM president and COO Dan Arnold). This means revisiting contracts, renegotiating insurance rates and making sure your contractors are giving you the best prices. “If you’ve been using the same vendor for the past two or three years, it’s easy to get complacent,” he says.
Rejiggered Portfolios
As real estate values rise, owners have been selling off buildings strategically. And for Henry S. Miller, which has also been culling assets, this has meant a drop in third-management property management assignments. “We’re down to about 2M SF, where historically, we’ve been at 5M SF,” Mark notes. Generally, it’s difficult to hold on to the management of a building if it’s sold, and many of the competitive buyers have been bringing management capabilities in house as their portfolios grow, squeezing the third-party providers out. But Mark expects that to quickly change as his firm shifts back to acquisition mode for the next two or three years. So far, it has three deals under contract, and the firm is seeking more opportunities in the market.
The Drought
Property managers are constantly juggling the difficulties of county and city restrictions on water usage. So it’s important to focus on using low-flow fixtures in each unit and common areas and explore all options when it comes to landscapes, including installing satellite controllers, changing the plant palette and switching to drip irrigation. Nick says WNPM is learning as much as it can from large landscapers and architects in Nevada, a state on the cutting-edge of drought management.
Cost-Effective Sustainability
It’s very difficult to have a residential property 100% LEED certified, which entails a lot of effort and expense. However, WNPM is looking at more cost-effective ways of being greener throughout its assets, from the way it handles trash to the types of materials it’s using throughout a community. California is not only dealing with the drought, but electricity pricing spikes, so solar is coming back in many areas.
Changing Technology
Usage Residents are no longer using technology the same way; fewer are opting for cable, for instance, and instead rely on Hulu and Netflix over television. That means bandwidth concerns. (Nick watches TV through his son’s Xbox.) There’s a growing trend toward fiber optics to “future-proof” your building and meet that bandwidth. Also, properties are getting away from the theaters and instead opt for a more clubhouse- or pub-type feel, with multiple TVs throughout the room where people can watch different shows, movies and sporting events or play video games at the same time.
More Social Areas
As the cost of land increases, properties are getting denser. “So you don’t always see the big, green pastures anymore,” Nick says. Instead, the firm is shifting its focus to creating social environments in common areas throughout the communities. Instead of one large community room, for instance, they’ll instead create smaller areas in a more socially interactive environment.
Improving Curb Appeal
As competition for space heats up in leading retail corridors and markets, and secondary markets experience some tenant fallout, it’s important to make sure your shopping centers are attractive, efficient, and the best they can be in terms of what else is in the market. Levin Management has been sprucing up many of its properties, as well as launching a number of renovations. Given it represents 95 properties across seven states, Matt says that it’s able to leverage its purchasing power to buy services and products more efficiently. It has also increasingly brought in nontraditional retail tenants to fill vacant space, including gyms and medical uses.
Harnessing Technology
In response to e-commerce competition, Levin Management has launched a mobile advertising pilot program to bring more customers into the brick-and-mortar stores, allowing them to see what’s available in each shopping center. Matt says it’s had good traction so far, which he expects to increase.

LED Lighting
LED lighting technology has finally arrived to where you can use LEDs for parking lot lights and get adequate illumination from tall poles. Now it’s possible to outfit an entire property, from walkways to common areas. That means less maintenance, less energy use and greater efficiency. (For example, Walmart and Sam’s Club in Puerto Rico retrofitted 22 locations with LED parking lot lights, which are expected to reduce energy needs by up to 48% while cutting maintenance costs by an estimated 75%.)
Farm Solar Project

Robart foresees day when his farm’s electric meter spins backward

(West Point, NE News) Kevin Robart may never complain on a hot, sunny day again. The sunnier days – and the more of them – the better, he says.

That’s because 63 solar panels mounted on two of his barns convert that sunshine into enough electricity to power just about everything on his farm place nine miles south of West Point.

Working at full capacity, the solar panels should produce up to 2,000 kilowatt (kW) hours per month. Robart anticipates the panels will replace 80 to 90 percent of his farm’s energy needs.

“It powers everything in the house and on the farm when it’s running,” Robart said.

Robart had the panels installed in November. And although he’s only had three months to see what they can do, they’ve done enough that he’s considering installing more.

Robart said he had been considering adding either a wind generator or solar panels for a long time. Then he met Dale Leuck at a farm show in Omaha.

Or see the entire story as published in the West Point News:

West Point News Front Page, West Point Page 3

Omaha Solar Commercial Installation

Solarcon At Work

Our Solarcon crews at work on a building in Omaha. A bit chilly but glad to be outside today!

This pictures were taken right after lunch, expect the solar panels to be installed by the end of today.

With this installation done in February, this customer is looking forward to a cool building this summer! Renewable energy generation is the key.

Good work team!

Solar Farm Water Pumping

Researching Water Usage at Solarcon

At Solarcon we work hard for our clients. Sometimes that is researching and gaining knowledge in new areas for us.

Before you read the study from the University of Oregon’s study: How Much Water Does a Cow Need?   see how well you know your livestock and take a guess:

  1. A dairy cow needs how many gallons a day?
    • 2 gallons
    • 10 gallons
    • 20 gallons
  2. A yearling calf needs how many gallons a day?
    • 5 gallons
    • 10 gallons
    • 20 gallons
  3. A sheep needs how many gallons a day?
    • 2 gallons
    • 5 gallons
    • 10 gallons

Solar powered pumping stations is helping our client farmers control costs and provide adequate hydration to their stock. Ask us how!

Rain  storm soaks field of corn on a farm.

Don’t scapegoat farmers for water problems

This is still going through the legal process. But it’s important to review this issue that has such a major impact on Midwest farmers. – Solarcon LLC

 

(Des Moines Register, Opinion, Sept 5, 2015) Don Kass  The Des Moines Register Editorial Board ran an editorial Aug. 23 titled, “Iowa waterways are a disgrace.” However, in its rush to malign the EPA-supported Nutrient Reduction Strategy and agricultural interests, it ignored some important points.

It is human nature, when a problem arises, to look for someone to blame. Unfortunately, things are rarely that simple in the real world. In this editorial, the Des Moines Register blames agriculture for everything from lake closures to global warming. In fact, one of the most important factors affecting nutrient loss is weather — notoriously unpredictable in Iowa. Particularly wet and warm periods can cause nitrogen to move with storm water, regardless of whether it is naturally occurring in the soil or applied fertilizer.

The Register says that corn requires a high level of fertilizer. Corn production relies on an average of 10,000 pounds of nitrogen that’s found naturally in Iowa’s soil.  It also needs 150-200 pounds applied as fertilizer each year to account for what was removed in last year’s crop. The article also mentions a survey of rural Iowans, attempting to paint farmers as out-of-touch or backwards. Nothing could be further from the truth. The very study the paper mentions reveals that nearly half of all Iowa farmers place meeting the Nutrient Reduction Strategy’s goals as a high priority, and that almost three in four (72 percent) would like to improve conservation practices on their land to meet the strategy’s goals.

The second annual report for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy noted that there have been more than 600 field days, 250 presentations, and 190 conferences attended by more than 40,000 farmers and other stakeholders in the last year, proving that farmers are interested in learning about and implementing conservation practices.  Since July, four new projects have expanded conservation efforts in Iowa and received funding through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative.

Water quality is a real concern in Iowa and farmers take it very seriously. That is why government officials and researchers at Iowa State University came together to develop the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. This two-year old strategy is based in science, and points farmers toward an array of best practices, since what is right for production on soils in northeast Iowa is much different than what is needed in southwest Iowa.  Though we would all like for problems to be solved overnight, the Nutrient Reduction Strategy must be allowed time to work.

The Register bemoans a lack of timelines attached to the NRS, but science and experience shows it can take decades to see water quality changes — something the Register should already know. Watershed projects do set goals that are appropriate for the landscape, and that is where goals make a difference.

The developers of this strategy have taken a long-term view, which is commendable. Rather than racing to an arbitrary deadline, Iowa farmers and other water quality stakeholders are encouraged to continually improve water quality, always striving for more innovative and effective conservation practices. The strategy’s annual report details at least $105 million in state and private organization investments in implementation programs outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, on top of farmers’ private investments.

The Des Moines Register clearly supports the lawsuit against three northwest Iowa counties brought by the Des Moines Water Works. This lawsuit is completely disingenuous. The drainage districts have no money to settle this lawsuit monetarily, as has been suggested by some parties. The lawsuit also threatens individual landowners, not some bureaucratic government agency. Instead, county supervisors are held liable, and if the lawsuit were to somehow assign a monetary liability on the drainage districts, all landowners would pay the penalty. Real livelihoods are at stake.

It is irresponsible to lay out farmers as a scapegoat in the water quality debates that are going on in Iowa today. Farmers are stewards of the land and it is crucial to their jobs to ensure that land is protected and preserved. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise, and I hope for more balance in future articles.

DON KASS is a Plymouth County supervisor and member of the board for Iowa Partnership for Clean Water. Contact:  citizenk2@msn.com