U.S. Water News Online
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Silt from soil runoff, farm chemicals,
manure and treated sewage in Iowa's rivers, lakes and streams is
making it difficult for the state to maintain its populations of game
Iowa spends $2.5 million every year stocking more than 140 million
fish such as channel catfish and walleye, but sales of fishing
licenses are down and some suspect the state may be losing much more
in tourism revenue.
Ryan Maas, of Iowa City said he thinks more people would fish in
Iowa if the waters were cleaner.
"I fish actively, and I hunt actively," he said. "We want to stay
in Iowa for the quality of life, but Iowa is having problems
retaining folks in our demographic. We're losing those folks to
places where they value things like water quality."
With pollution killing fish, their eggs and other aquatic plants
and animals, Dave Ratliff, of Coralville, said he hopes the state can
improve its water quality.
"I grew up in Wyoming and Colorado, and what we called clean water
there isn't what we have here," he said. "I could see into the water
there. Around here, I can't."
In 2001, revenue from more than half a million anglers totaled
about $336 million, but a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study found
that the fishing business is considerably higher in Minnesota,
Missouri, Illinois and Ohio.
Studies made by Iowa State University found that areas with better
recreational offerings had faster-rising incomes, and visits to lakes
and rivers would increase if they were cleaner.
From 2002-04, state biologists ranked Iowa's waters "fair," rather
than "good" or "excellent" due to inconsistent fish populations and a
higher-than-normal number of disease outbreaks.
State biologist Tom Wilton said Iowa ranks near the middle
nationally in number of fish species with 102. Southeastern states
have the greatest number of species, with North Carolina reporting
more than 200, he said.
"We have some waters that aren't faring well at all, and others
that are clearly a notch above average," Wilton said.
Bright spots include clear-running streams in northeast Iowa where
trout have rebounded, and the restoration of Lake Ahquabi near
A state environmental commission recently approved new rules that
would force Iowa to comply with the 1972 federal Clean Water Act,
which demands that waters be protected. But some state lawmakers have
said the rules would cost too much to implement and should be blocked
from taking effect.
Ron Stahlberg, of North Liberty, president of the Hawkeye Fly
Fishing Association, said the issue should be important to all
Iowans, even if they don't fish.
"Not only does it impact fishing directly, but quality of life in
general," he said.
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