CHARLES CITY – Representative Todd Prichard gave a flood impact assessment and announced that raising the state’s minimum wage is a priority for the 2017 legislative session:The past week felt like the Raging River ride at Adventure Land Amusement Park: wet with many surprise turns. Allow me to make a few observations about the recent flooding in North Iowa.
First, the help from volunteers, first responders and the community support with the flooding was exceptional, as it always has been. Did you see the barriers that were erected in a matter of hours around Charles City? Overcoming the Waste Water Treatment Plant failure was a community effort. I think we all have a new found appreciation for flushing toilets. The dedicated work of the city’s street crews and the community’s cooperation made all the difference. When the pumps were down, temporary pumps were needed to pump the waste water out. The temporary pump’s capacity to handle water was limited compared to the capacity of the permanent pumps. Accordingly, the city needed to reduce the waste water flow to the pump station to prevent a larger disaster. Residents and businesses responded. I spoke to Police Chief Anderson about the situation and he told me that some neighborhoods were practically dry as evidenced by the lack of water in the man holes. Literally entire neighborhoods were not sending water down their drains. The voluntary compliance to limit waste water was awesome and helped resolve the situation at the treatment plant much faster.
Second, this Cedar River crested 4 feet lower than it did in 2008. The lower crest was an exceptionally good development for Charles City. Initially the flood prediction models used by the National Weather Service predicted a crest close to what we experienced in 2008. The fact that the flood prediction models were incorrect is a good sign. The data the models rely on regarding the river has changed in a positive way, I would suppose. My suspicion is that the water quality and flood mitigation projects that have occurred in and around the Cedar River watershed held back some of the water and prevented the higher crests.
As some of my readers know, I am heavily involved in the water quality discussion occurring in the State House and around the state. With epic rains and heavy floods, the discussion about water quality becomes even more critical. Experts in the study of flooding tell me that each foot we are able to lower the crest directly correlate to millions of dollars saved in flood damage for communities hit with flooding. The good thing for flood mitigation is that a water project that helps to reduce pollution and nutrients also serve to hold back flood waters. In essence two benefits for the price of one. Prime examples of the water quality projects I am referring to are on the north side of the Avenue of the Saints by Nora Springs. If you look to the North you will see large steel signs that say “CREP”. CREP stands for Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and it is a partnership between the State and The US Department of Agriculture.
Happily two CREP projects are right along the Avenue of the Saints for the public to notice and see. As you pass by the CREP projects, look closely at the abundance of wildlife and water fowl that reside there. The wetland creates wonderful habitat for wildlife. Second, the intended purpose of the CREP wetland is to capture nutrients and clean the water naturally as it filters through the wetland. In addition to being a natural filter for water, the wetland also retains water which slows the water from entering the river and helps drop the flood crest in times of heavy rain.
In addition to the CREP wetlands along the Avenue of the Saints, there have been many other projects in and around the region over the last few years that helped slow the water’s journey to the river. Collectively, I would bet that these projects played a significant role in reducing the Cedar River flood crest. Now consider how much worse last week’s flood could have been in Charles City had it not been for the conservation efforts local land owners and government agencies have made since 2008. The damage avoided in terms of human hardship and damage to property is obvious in the wake of last week’s flood.
My take away from last week’s events are this: 1) we live in a great community of people and 2) the cost of water quality conservation efforts pays huge dividends in terms of protecting communities from floods and safeguarding the environment. It’s time for Iowa to enact a comprehensive water quality initiative and expand on the success we have had since 2008.
Minimum Wage Tops Priority List for 2017 Session
After gridlock for nearly a decade, a group of Iowa lawmakers said this week that raising Iowa’s minimum wage should be one of the top priorities of the 2017 legislative session. There are over 216,000 Iowans who earn the minimum wage and 90,000 Iowans who would indirectly benefit from an increase.
Over the last 30 years, the minimum wage has failed to keep up with the struggles working families are facing. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would currently be $10.74 an hour. The current wage of $7.25 has 78% of the purchasing power it did in 1968.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of minimum wage workers are not teenagers. Eighty-one percent of workers benefiting from the wage increase are over 20 years old. In Iowa, 58% of minimum wage workers that will benefit from an increase are women. The new money injected into the economy would lead to an estimated 1,400 new jobs.
Last session, several lawmakers introduced a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25, Iowa’s current minimum wage, to $10.10 over several years’ time. This plan was not considered by Republicans in the Iowa House. Because of these roadblocks at the State Capitol, several Iowa counties have taken it upon themselves to raise the minimum wage themselves. The Board of Supervisors in Johnson, Wapello and Linn counties have all voted to raise the minimum wages in their respective counties.