Dorman: The biggest fish story of all: Iowa DNR cares about clean water


HR King
May 29, 2001
Heard any good fish stories lately? Just cast your line into this week’s news.

Kayla Lyon, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, was fined this month for fishing without a license. She forgot to update her credit card information, so her license wasn’t automatically renewed.

Once informed, she insisted the department’s law enforcement chief ticket her for fishing without a license, at a cost of $135. Laws apply to everyone. Mistakes are made. Could happen to anyone.


In other news, Lyon’s department was dealt a legal setback in its effort to toss out a lawsuit filed by the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club over the DNR’s approval of a manure management plan for a massive cattle feedlot in the Bloody Run Creek watershed in Clayton County.

The Sierra Club argues the Supreme Beef feedlot, and manure spread on nearby fields, are a threat to Bloody Run Creek, a trout stream on Iowa’s very short list of “outstanding waters.” Its watershed sits on porous karst terrain, which raises the possibility of water contamination. The lawsuit also alleges the DNR mishandled the manure management plan approval process in violation of state law.

Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert ruled that the Sierra Club has standing to pursue the legal action. Four members of the club included in the suit use Bloody Run Creek for hiking, photography and fishing, activities that could be hampered by pollution.

“Sierra Club mentions in its petition that (manure) lagoons like those that the one Supreme Beef proposed may cause seepage and drainage into the bedrock, as ‘has occurred in Iowa and geologically similar areas,’” Huppert wrote. He ruled that the Sierra Club’s arguments warning of an impending environmental threat to the creek are “actual as opposed to speculative.”

In a second ruling, Huppert shot down the DNR’s effort to block a group of trout anglers, Trout Unlimited, from joining the lawsuit. It turns out trout need clean water to live. Who knew?

Not the recently fined angler who runs the DNR, apparently. Lyon has turned back multiple pleas for the department to halt the Supreme Beef project and re-evaluate its manure management plan, which the Sierra Club and others argue was approved despite errors and faulty assumptions.

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As I mentioned, laws apply to everyone. Well, except large-scale livestock producers. Mistakes are made, but the DNR overlooks them. Could happen to any waterway in Iowa. Check the state’s growing impaired waters list, your local algae choked lake or the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico for more information.

We know how much a DNR fishing license costs. But when the department hands out licenses to pollute, the costs to Iowans and our environment are immeasurable. And yet renewal is automatic.

It’s too bad that after hearing about the flaws in Supreme Beef’s plans and its clear threat to an outstanding Iowa trout stream that Lyon didn’t call in her environmental enforcers and insist that something be done to protect Bloody Run Creek. Instead, she stuck with big ag interests and sent lawyers to court to turn back efforts to hold her department accountable.

Trout Unlimited? How about Pollution Unlimited?

So Lyon paid her fine. Great. The rest of us pay for her department’s inaction. And the biggest fish story of all is the one about how the DNR cares about clean water.