Important progress

Published 10:27 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A consensus that the Cedar River is in trouble, that it deserves better and that it can be a major asset for Austin has been slowly building. The progress the river’s advocates have made toward rehabilitating the waterway in the past few years is striking — and important.

Several years ago, many Austin area residents were disappointed — although perhaps not surprised — to learn just how bad the Cedar River’s water quality had become, in part because some homes upstream of Austin were still “straight-piping” their sewage into the river. Shortly after that, an environmental group listed the Cedar as one of the nation’s most imperiled rivers (a rating, it should be noted, that encompassed the river’s even worse quality downstream as it winds through Iowa). That may have been the lower point, although the ranking merely confirmed what anyone who had paddled or fished the river in recent years had long ago figured out.

Now, as spelled out in a Daily Herald story on Tuesday, the Cedar has become a cause with plenty of support. The creation of the Cedar River Watershed District and its ability to regulate activities that pollute the river was a big step. Vision 2020’s focus on improving Austin’s existing assets was another. With additional help from the city and the Department of Natural Resources, not to mention enthusiastic volunteers, the Cedar may keep getting cleaner and more popular.

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There’s an undeniable benefit to the Austin community associated with having the Cedar recognized as a high-quality recreational resources. There’s at least as much benefit, if not more, in making a contribution to the environment by cleaning up a polluted river. Here’s hoping progress continues and the Cedar becomes a worst-to-first story.