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Newscast 10.31.2023: New round of Destination Iowa infrastructure grants opening up; Nebraska agency setting regulations on hormone therapy limits for young people

Woodbury County land donated to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation by Scott and Sandra Wendel
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
An Iowa landscape is shown in 2022.

Iowa communities can now line up to attempt to dig into a new $6.5 million dollar pool of money to bolster tourism and quality of life through the relatively new Destination Iowa program.

The grant initiative, which launched in 2022 with federal funding, became a state-funded initiative following approval from the Iowa legislature in spring 2023.

The goal is for Iowa communities to make strategic investments that create major opportunities to attract visitors and enhance quality of life amenities for residents, thereby boosting local economies and attracting people.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in a release said Destination Iowa will continue to inspire communities statewide to dream big about projects that will give tourists a reason to explore, plus to give newcomers a reason to call Iowa home. The initiative has advanced 46 projects across the state so far, activating more than $480 million in total investment.

Funds will be awarded to projects investing in infrastructure such as land acquisition and construction, recreational trails and water trails.

In the most recent batch of Destination Iowa recipients in spring 2023, in Northwest Iowa a grant went to Dickinson County. The Dickinson County Conservation Board was awarded $3.5 million dollars to develop the new Sherwood Forest Park on the former site of The Inn at Okoboji resort. The award represents 35 percent of the total project investment of $10 million dollars.

Other grants went to the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, with $185,000 for the Art Smart Children’s Interactive Gallery project. Elsewhere in Siouxland, the Osceola County Conservation Board was awarded $200,000 to expand the Willow Creek Campground.

Applications for grants are now being accepted by the Iowa Economic Development Authority agency, which will designate a grant committee to review applications and make funding recommendations in April 2024.

Additionally, in Nebraska, back in May lawmakers passed the controversial Let Them Grow Act to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The measure prohibits gender-affirming procedures for anyone under the age of 19, and gives the state's chief medical officer responsibility for establishing limitations on hormone therapy and puberty blockers.

Now, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has released the final draft of regulations for the Let Them Grow Act, and will receive written comments from people through November 28, which is also the date of a public hearing in Lincoln.

Supporters of the bill claimed it would prevent teenagers from having irreversible medical operations they might later regret, while critics of the measure during the time of passage chanted the phrase, “You can’t defeat our human rights!”

Information for how to provide comments on the drafted regulations can be found on the Nebraska DHHS website.