One of the region’s fastest-growing areas is in western Iowa, and a report to be released today (Thursday) tells why that growth could be bad news. A regional planning, historic and revitalization institute housed in the mansion of a prominent Omaha family, the Joslyn Castle Institute was a spinoff of the University of Nebraska College of architecture but now is independent. The Institute’s Cecil Steward says they’ve studied growth in a 60-mile radius around Council Bluffs and Omaha. Why 60 miles? Because, Steward says, that’s the distance for a commute into Omaha, Lincoln or Council Bluffs, and it includes about four Iowa counties with potential numbers of commuters who work in those cities. There are 122 towns and cities within that 60-mile ring, he says, and more than 400 people, though current growth patterns don’t signal a future that’ll make it any easier to get to their jobs. It’s not as bad as the urban sprawl around some big cities, but the outlook for growth seems unstoppable. In the meantime, he says it’s all taking place in a couple of the country’s most fragile ecosystems, the Missouri and Platte river watersheds. Steward says it’s not about stopping growth — it’s about managing it, so we don’t pollute or pave over the most sensitive parts of our environment. Steward says we have to be smarter, more efficient, and more respectful of the natural environment, saying if we try we can get it done — even though it’ll take the cooperation of 122 communities, sixteen counties and two states. WIth information from the survey, he says the local governments can work together instead of trying to add another layer of government to direct the region’s growth. The institute’s report says the region’s growth is expected to nearly double to two () million people over the next fifty years, and that’ll strain resources including fresh water and valuable farmland. Among Iowa towns in the study area are Shenandoah, Red Oak, Atlantic, Harlan, Denison, Glenwood, and Council Bluffs.
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