(The Center Square) – The fate of The Missouri River Preservation and Land Use Authority is in the hands of Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The Iowa House repealed the MRPLUA by a 59-34 vote on Monday, and the bill has been sent to the governor.
The authority’s goal is to plan, develop and implement strategies to preserve and restore the land along the Missouri River, and conduct public hearings regarding conservation of that land.
The bill’s floor manager, State Rep. Jon Jacobsen, R-Council Bluffs, said the authority currently has no members, no funding, and hasn’t met in more than 30 years.
“This is a code clutter cleanup.… This will help flood remediation efforts across the state, including in our area,” Jacobsen said. “Right now, we have a plethora of competing authorities. This will streamline that.”
State Rep. Eric Gjerde, D-Cedar Rapids, spoke in opposition of the bill, SF 185, saying that the authority could be used to secure federal grant money in the future.
“Now is the time to utilize some of the features of this law to deal with restoring floodplains and the Missouri River,” Gjerde said. “Floodwater needs a place to go without destroying agricultural land, homes, and businesses. We need to restore the natural flow of the river, restore habitat for wildlife.”
State Rep. Steven Hansen, D-Sioux City, said he would like the legislature to dedicate resources and appoint members to the authority who are interested in promoting the original mission. He said receiving grants for the work through stimulus money is a “probably very real” possibility.
Jacobsen said that there is no “inherent barrier” to addressing issues involving the Missouri River.
“In fact, they’re addressed more appropriately under the current new infrastructures that have been put into place,” he said.
Iowa entered into the Missouri River Flood Mitigation Compact in 2020, in which it collaborates with Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City and Omaha offices to “prepare and plan for floods in the lands adjacent to the Missouri River,” he said.
“The Iowa DNR has been brought into play subsequent to this 30-year-old shell, already doing many of the things that the authority was set up to accomplish,” Jacobsen said.
“The [Iowa Department of Natural Resources] does not have any information about the Missouri River Land Use Authority in 20 years of staff history or of any funding being allocated to the Authority,” Iowa Department of Natural Resources Bureau Chief & Communications Director Alex Murphy told The Center Square in an emailed statement.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ license agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha Division grants the department wildlife bureau management of areas owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife habitat” and provide the public with recreation options, Murphy said. The department develops annual and 5-year management plans for both the wildlife protection and public recreation, he added.
The department’s wildlife bureau maintains a private lands program that enrolls landowners in Iowa conservation programs. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, County Conservation Boards, local entities and partner organizations are also involved with the department’s efforts.
The Iowa Senate approved the bill in a 35-11 vote on February 3.