Drainage Contractor

Features Business
Editorial: November 2015

It’s time to step up and speak out

October 30, 2015  By Brandi Cowen

Water quality has been on the minds of lawmakers lately, as governments on both sides of the 49th parallel enact legislation to protect and improve water quality within their respective jurisdictions. If you subscribe to our e-newsletter, you’ve probably seen headlines such as “Minnesota’s water protection methods about to change” and “New rules for drainage projects in Saskatchewan.” (If you aren’t receiving our e-newsletter, you can sign up online.)  

The courts, too, have been making headlines as they are asked to rule on issues affecting water quality and, ultimately, the way drainage contractors do their work. In Iowa, the lawsuit filed by Des Moines Water Works against drainage districts in three counties continues to garner a lot of attention amid speculation about possible outcomes of the case and what these will mean for agriculture. Although the trial isn’t set to begin until August 2016, many are already anticipating that the case will wind up before the United States Supreme Court.  

The courts were also in the spotlight earlier this summer, when a federal judge in North Dakota issued a temporary injunction preventing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers from using new provisions of the Clean Water Act to regulate some small streams, tributaries and wetlands in 13 states. The injunction, issued just hours before the new rule was set to come into effect, was still in place at press time.

Navigating new rules that force us to change the way we do things we’ve done countless times before can be unpleasant. We like to do things a certain way because it’s the way we’ve always done them. Introducing change can invite errors, and errors can lead to delays while you wait for the necessary permissions to start a job, or extra work as you and your team re-do a job to comply with unfamiliar requirements.


Further complicating things is the reality that now is a difficult time to be in a business with links to environmental issues. Even in the immediate aftermath of the 2008/9 global financial crisis, the International Social Survey Program found that national and international concern about environmental policy remained strong. This runs counter to previous research that’s tied hard economic times to waning interest in the environment among both citizens and policymakers.  

Plus, poor (and poorly understood) science and special interest groups promoting cherry-picked facts in support of their lobbying efforts abound, further complicating the situation.

There’s an upside to all this attention, though. The public is tuned into news about environmental issues, granting knowledgeable professionals a captive audience with which to share their expertise. Drainage contractors can play an important part in the conversation, speaking with authority on issues of water quality, soil erosion, and nutrient management, to name just a few.  

But don’t stop there. Contractors shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to their local representatives. Offer your expertise as an experienced professional well versed in the issues confronting agriculture and the environment. Perhaps you can even arrange a worksite tour, giving your representatives the opportunity to see first-hand the care you take to safeguard the environment for generations to come. Building relationships with local lawmakers is an important step on the path to becoming a trusted resource for these officials – one whose thoughts carry weight when it’s time to legislate on key issues facing your business. 

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