Jack Whitver

Republicans and Democrats say finding a long-term source of money for water quality efforts is a priority for the 2018 Iowa legislative session — and they expect quick action.

It’s still a matter of debate, though, as to which policy option will be pursued. Senate President Jack Whitver of Ankeny acknowledges the House passed one approach last year, while the Senate approved a different one.

“But at the end of session, we decided there were too many dollars on the line and too much policy to hammer out to do that at the last-minute and just patch it together,” Whitver said yesterday, “and we decided we wanted to take time and make sure you’re going to do it right because that’s plan that’s going to be around for 20 or 30 or 40 years.”

House Republican Leader Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights expects “hundreds of millions of dollars” to be dedicated to water quality projects over the next few decades.

“We shouldn’t see this one bill that we have as the beginning and the end of our work on water quality,” Hagenow said. “I see this as a generational challenge.”

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines favors an approach that addresses pollution at the watershed level.

“The problems with water are not evenly sprinkled across our state and we should be going after the areas that is most poisoning our water,” Petersen said yesterday. “We should be going after those areas first, I believe.”

According to House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown, it’s a mistake to make look solely at the quality of surface water.

“We need to be focusing on good soil and retaining Iowa soil, which is our lifeblood here in this state,” Smith said yesterday. “By doing so, we will correct the water quality issues that we have in our state and many other issues as well.”

Addressing flood-prone areas of the state through water improvement projects is important, according to Smith.

The legislative leaders made their comments Thursday during a forum sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership. It represents 23 chambers of commerce in central Iowa.