IowaWatch joins Investigate Midwest! Meet our new newsroom!

As part of an effort to better cover crucial issues in the agricultural industry, Investigate Midwest has acquired IowaWatch and its talented team, bringing together a combined 25 years of public service journalism to Iowa and the Midwest. IowaWatch (The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism) will cease operations as a nonprofit and evolve into an expanded Iowa-based newsroom within Investigate Midwest (The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting) under an agreement approved this month by the boards of directors of both nonprofit organizations. Under the umbrella of Investigate Midwest, the Iowa team will focus its coverage on agriculture and rural issues. “As colleagues for many years, IowaWatch and Investigate Midwest have naturally gravitated toward the common goal of deeply covering rural communities and Midwest issues that often go unseen and unreported,” said Pam Dempsey, executive director for Investigate Midwest. The newsroom will do more investigative stories for Iowans and allow Investigate Midwest — whose mission is to expose the dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions — to expand its coverage in a state that’s a global leader in agriculture.

Iowa’s outdoor recreation trust fund is empty. Will lawmakers change that?

Four Iowa legislators and two conservation advocates want funding for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund – which has stayed empty since it was approved by voters in 2010. They shared their sentiments with IowaWatch as the state of Iowa ended the fiscal year 2021 with a surplus of $1.24 billion — the largest surplus in state history. 

There’s discussion already about that surplus as lawmakers return to the Statehouse Jan. 10. 

Will funding the trust fund be a priority in 2022? Lawmakers from both major parties say natural resources deserve attention but they are unsure given interest in tax cuts. Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, D-District 22, sees the excess surplus dollars as an opportunity to support Iowa’s 83 state parks and recreation areas, but is concerned with the current projection of how the Iowa Legislature will use the surplus. 

“We saw in the last two years with a pandemic how our state parks have been such an important resource for Iowans.

Iowan visits every town and city in the state in 5 years. Here’s what he learned.

Wanting to know their new state after moving to Iowa in 2014, Dave and Karen Miglin and their two children went to the Field of Dreams movie site outside of Dyersville in northeast Iowa. 

Dave Miglin had moved from Atlanta ahead of the family the previous year for his job as media and digital vice president for Strategic America in West Des Moines. Sitting at Iowa’s famous baseball field in a farm field, his son, Evan, was asking questions. “He was, like, curious to know what I was going to see next,” Miglin, 53, said. With support from the Solutions Journalism Network

“Next” became visits to every incorporated town and city in Iowa over five years. Iowa had 955 incorporated towns when he started his quest.

Central Iowa’s drinking water caught between climate change and farming

Until the drought, water engineers at the Des Moines Water Works had to make a difficult choice every morning between two rivers that supply the 600,000 people in Iowa’s capital city with clean drinking water. Would it be the Raccoon River, flowing from the northwest and often laced with levels of nitrates in excess of federal safety standards, or the Des Moines River, flowing from the north and often carrying dangerous concentrations of cyano-bacteria in burgeoning populations of algae? It’s a no-win choice: Extended exposure to nitrates in drinking water has been linked to a range of cancers, the consumption of algae to kidney and liver damage and an array of acute symptoms.

But there’s been a twist to this unappealing choice, some version of which is playing out in cities across the Midwest that lie astride major rivers. For much of the fall, the drought in Iowa made the decision easy for Ted Corrigan, a water engineer and CEO of the Des Moines Water Works. Less rain meant less nitrogen seeping from the fertilizer applied across the state’s millions of acres of farmland and running off the tiles that undergird many fields into the Raccoon.