Environmentalists Lose Topsoil Fight at Environmental Protection Commission

Jun 16, 2015

By a vote of seven to two, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission Tuesday sided with developers over environmentalists and homeowners when it comes to putting back topsoil after new homes and businesses go up.     

The new rules will no longer require at least four inches of topsoil.     

Federal rules require restoration of topsoil to prevent stormwater runoff, but developers say Iowa’s standard is too strict.      

“By requiring that specific measurement of four inches of topsoil, we've gotten more restrictive than 48 states in the country,” says Amie Staudt with Knapp Properties in West Des Moines.  “And it's proven to be inefficient and expensive to meet.”

Environmentalists say removing soil is bad for both soil and water, and homeowners say new yards are sometimes useless for gardens. 

Virginia Soelberg of Johnston, speaking for the Sierra Club, tells commissioners that the four-inch rule isn’t nearly as costly as developers claim.

“One expert said that the cost is a fraction of the builder’s claims,” Soelberg says.  “Topsoil is a resource that shouldn’t be exploited.  Please don’t let the Des Moines area building industry dictate this for Iowans.”

The new rule will require contractors to keep topsoil on site if it’s feasible. 

Cities are involved because topsoil helps reduce stormwater runoff. But cities can enact tougher requirements if they choose.  

The Legislative rules Review committee must sign off before the new rules goes into effect in August.