|Raccoon River watershed, part of Des Moines R. watershed|
Des Moines Water had "hoped to reverse nearly a century of legal precedent that's given the districts immunity from being sued for damages," Grant Rodgers and Donnelle Eller report for The Des Moines Register. "The utility argues the protection relieves the drainage districts of responsibility to limit farm runoff into streams and rivers. It also wants to force drainage districts to seek permits under the federal Clean Water Act. It's a move that would increase regulation for about 3,000 districts statewide, and indirectly farmers across the state and, possibly, the nation." That demand is in the federal lawsuit.
The state court's decision "was a relief to northern Iowa counties, potentially on the hook for the capital’s water-quality problems, and to Iowa farmers and ag groups, who are encouraged that the utility’s remaining claims could be dismissed," reports the Register. "Paying damages would have been 'an enormous burden that I don’t know we could have financially survived,' said Colin McCullough, a drainage district attorney for Sac County."
Experts and environmentalists say the suit could have national implications over who is responsible for water pollution that originates from cropland that is often hundreds of miles away.