Iowa DNR takes $10 million hit
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP)—The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported about $10 million in losses after this year’s tornadoes and record flooding.
Parks chief Kevin Szcodronski said 33 of the 48 total parks suffered significant damage from floodwaters, high wind and rain.
Szcodronski said the damage was compounded by about $800,000 in lost fees for fishing and hunting licenses. DNR officials say they will push for higher hunting and fishing license fees next year.
The losses mean the state might not be able to afford regular park cleanup, might have to cut 100 summer positions and will likely leave four permanent positions open.
Park visitors will notice less mowing and cleanup at parks next year, although campgrounds and major parks should not look different, Szcodronski said.
The parks’ annual operating budget is approximately $14.5 million, including general taxes and gambling receipts appropriated to the department.
More than half of the losses could be covered by federal aid and state insurance money, but the conservation and recreation division will likely be liable for at least $4 million.
The parks department is also trying to cope with $700,000 loss from cabin, shelter and lodge rentals, which usually run about $3 million.
Unlike the parks, Szcodronski said the revenue-generating facilities will be kept “as up to snuff as possible.”
The parks also sustained another $783,000 in damage not covered by federal dollars for a total loss of $1.48 million.
Two parks that were set to open by Memorial Day might not make their opening dates. Repair work will start on Walnut Woods in West Des Moines and George Wyth in Waterloo in the spring.
The flooding also disrupted pheasants’ nesting season, leading to fewer birds and less money from hunting licenses. For fishermen, the news is just as bad: the floods washed out many of the trout at hatcheries in Elkader and Manchester and the state cut back on trout stocking by as much as 20 percent.
State fisheries chief Marion Conover compared the drop in fishing licenses to the 1993 floods that ravaged the state, and said there might be cause for optimism.
“We saw the same thing in 1993,” Conover said. “But in 1994, they came back in droves.”