Legislative Summary – Lake, River, and Clean Water Issues March 17, 2015

Aquatic Invasive Species

Funding

In 2014, the Legislature created a new source of funding for AIS prevention. This new funding give grants directly to local governments to develop and implement AIS prevention programs, including education, inspection, and decontamination.

This session, bills have been introduced to repeal this funding (H.F. 570 Drazkowski/S.F. 1369 Thompson). The House Environment Policy and Finance Committee held an informational hearing on one of these bills on March 5. Representatives from Crow Wing, Douglas, and Carver counties testified that counties have embraced this funding and are using it to significantly ramp up AIS prevention work. The House bill was not voted on, and the Senate bill is pending in the Senate Tax Committee. We will be monitoring these bills and opposing any reduction of funding to the aid program, especially as the legislature assembles the final tax bill in late April and May.

AIS trailer decal

In 2012, the Legislature directed the DNR to design a program to require anyone trailering a boat or water-related equipment, such as docks and lifts, in Minnesota to take aquatic invasive species training and display a decal on their trailer. The program was to be online by July 1, 2015 and the DNR began to roll out the materials this past January. Concerns were raised at the Legislature about whether the decal requirement would deter visitors to resorts, and whether it should apply to boats that were trailered across state but never launched. Bills have been introduced both to repeal the decal requirement (H.F.184 Drazkowsi/S.F.235 Tomassoni) and to modify the program (H.F. 1065 Uglem/SF 669 Saxhaug). The DNR has delayed the program and supports certain modifications. The current proposal being considered by the Legislature would make the following changes to the program:

  • Not apply to trailers moving across the state- only to the launching of trailers in state.
  • Not apply to trailers used on a single piece of property – so boat owners can use a trailer to take their own boat in and out of the lake they own property on.
  • No fee for taking the course.
  • Penalties begin only after a full year of program, and are limited to $25.

We will be monitoring these proposals and advocating for appropriate changes but overall continuation of an effective AIS educational program.

Decontamination Enforcement

The DNR policy bill (H.F. 1329/ //S.F. 1430)(Sec. 15) includes a provision giving Conservation Officers authority to require a person whose boat has been found to be contaminated to have it decontaminated with high power washing or hot water washing if available on site. If decontamination is not available on site, the boat will be tagged with list of approved decontamination locations.  The tag will consist of a metal clip on the trailer that will be removed when the boat is properly decontaminated. County aid funding will be used to help implement this provision. The DNR has testified that this will not be applied to boats moving in and out of same water body. The policy bill has been approved by the Senate Environment committee and will be heard by the Judiciary committee next.

Protecting lakes and rivers from plastic microbeads

Synthetic microbeads are tiny plastic particles that have been increasingly added to toothpaste and facial scrubs in recent years. Unfortunately, they do not dissolve in water. They end up in our lakes and rivers, where they absorb toxins such as dioxins and PCBs and fish mistake them for food. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the possibility that microbeads are introducing toxic chemicals into the food chain.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released a report last December recommending that action be taken to accelerate the removal of microbeads from personal care products and several multiple bipartisan bills are now pending in the legislature (H.F. 834 Uglem/S.F. 674 Hoffman, H.F. 541 Hansen/S.F. 507 Marty, S.F. 627 Reinert, H.F. 143 Mullery). S.F. 507 was passed unanimously in the Senate Environment Committee and is pending in Senate Commerce. We are working with the bill authors to ensure passage this year to ensure a clear deadline for the phase out of these products.

Reducing phosphorous and nutrients flowing into lakes and rivers

The Governor has made a bold proposal to protect our water from excessive phosphorus and sediments by requiring a 50 foot buffer on all rivers and streams. This buffer would now be required for all ditches, streams and rivers that are found to be perennial watercourses that contribute to downstream waters but will not affect the rules regarding lake shoreland. Buffers are a proven best management practice for protecting out water and have been found to filter excess sediment by 75% and phosphorus by 50%. Buffers also reduce flooding by slowing runoff during peak flows and increasing water storage as well as provide valuable habitat for wildlife. New LiDar technology which is capable of identifying the bed and banks of even very small tributaries will allow the DNR to map all affected watercourses in a cost effective and understandable manner.

Bills enacting the Governor’s proposal have introduced (H.F. 1534 Torkelson/S.F. 1537 Marty). These bills will be heard during the week of March 9. We are working to support these bills as they navigate the legislative process.

Water levels and groundwater impacts

 In recent years, there has been increasing concern about both ground water contamination and ground water pumping that can deplete aquifers and affect nearby lakes. In terms of contamination, excessive levels of nitrates have been found in wells in many parts of the state including the Parks Rapids area and Dakota County. In terms of depletion, the decline of water levels in White Bear Lake has been found to be caused by excessive groundwater pumping in nearby communities.

We are working to oppose a bill (H.F. 1494 Howe/ S.F. 1378 Fischbach) that would limit the DNR’s ability limit a water appropriation permit to protect surface waters. The first hearing is on Wed. March 11 in House Environment Policy and Finance.

Proposed changes to water rulemaking

Four bills have been introduced that would slow down enforcement of clean water standards by adding a new layer of legislative review over agency decisions. H.F. 1000/S.F. 1007 would allow the Legislature to block the MPCA from enforcing the state’s existing sulfate standard meant to protect native wild rice. H.F. 616/ S.F. 689 and H.F. 617 /S.F. 690 would give the legislature veto power over water quality rules such as phosphorus reduction standards. These bills have been heard in the House and are likely to be included in an omnibus bill. They have not been heard in the Senate.

We are working to oppose these changes that would delay and restrict the ability of state agencies to keep our lakes and rivers clean.