Des Moines, IA — The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch v. State of Iowa regarding a lawsuit against the State of Iowa for failing to protect the public use of the Raccoon River. The hearing will begin Wednesday, December 19th at 9 a.m. central time. The Court will livestream the argument here.
The lawsuit was filed by Food & Water Watch and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, who are represented in the action by Public Justice, Food & Water Watch, Roxanne Conlin & Associates, and Channing Dutton, of Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake LLP.
These groups, concerned about pollution from industrial agriculture operations in the Raccoon River, sued the state of Iowa in March of 2019 for failing to protect use of the river, including as a drinking water source and for recreation. In September 2019, Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson denied the State’s request to dismiss the case. The State appealed, and the Iowa Supreme Court will now decide whether to affirm Judge Hanson’s decision, which would allow the lawsuit to move forward to a trial.
The groups’ suit relies on the Iowa Constitution and the Public Trust Doctrine, which guarantee Iowans’ right to use and enjoy Iowa’s lakes and rivers and require the state to protect that right.
The groups issued a joint statement:
“The Public Trust Doctrine guarantees Iowans’ right to use and enjoy navigable waters. It was the law when Iowa became a state, and it is the law today. The state is violating that right.
“The State of Iowa has stood idly by for too long by exempting agricultural runoff from controls and relying on a “voluntary” nutrient reduction strategy, allowing industrial agribusiness giants to continue polluting our rivers, lakes, and streams. Iowans are done with voluntary. We need mandatory solutions to protect our water, our families, and our communities, and we need to hold our legislators accountable when they put Iowa families at risk by failing to meet their duty to protect our right to clean water. Instead of a voluntary policy that rewards agribusiness, we support mandatory pollution controls and rural policy reform that ensures farmers can afford them.
“We are asking the Supreme Court to allow Iowans our day in court so that we may protect our right to clean water.”