2016 Legislative Preview

Issues for Lakes, Rivers, and Clean Water

March 6, 2016

Bonding Proposals

The Governor has proposed $167 million in his bonding bill to pay for wastewater and drinking water system improvements. Most of the state’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is in need of repair or replacement and this is the start of a multiyear plan to address the need. The projects in the Governor’s proposal are targeted to communities and watersheds in all regions of the state. Without state monies, many local units of government would be unable to pay for needed repairs and the quality of local lakes, rivers, and drinking water could suffer.

The Governor has incorporated $12.7 million in his bonding bill. If funded the state’s contribution would trigger $47.5 million in federal funds to clean up the Duluth Harbor and improve water quality in Lake Superior’s largest estuary. Decades ago, the St. Louis River was a dumping point for industrial waste and this proposal is part of a multi-year, multi-agency plan to remediate the pollution, restore aquatic habitat, and improve regional water quality.

Buffer Defense

The new buffer law passed in 2015 will help clean up surface runoff that has been polluting our lakes and rivers. This law has been targeted by some legislators looking to rollback the buffer requirements that we fought hard for last session. We fully support vegetative buffers protecting all our waterways and we will defend the law from those trying to repeal it. 

Clean Water by 2050

The problems facing Minnesota’s waters are numerous and complex. In order to solve them, we cannot rely on Legacy Funding alone. We must set goals that the public can understand and that can inspire the ingenuity of state and local governments, research universities, and Minnesota’s business community to find solutions for this growing problem. Based upon Conservation Minnesota’s Clean Water Promise, this proposal sets clear deadlines for the clean up and protection of all Minnesota rivers, lakes, and groundwater resources.

Flushable Wipes

Products labeled as “flushable” have become a growing problem for local and municipal sewage treatment systems. The wipes actually clog wastewater infrastructure and cause hazardous sewage blockages and overflows. The effects of these so-called “flushable” products waste both time and money, and sewage overflows can have drastic impacts on local lakes and rivers. Conservation Minnesota will push for requirements to keep these products out of septic and sewer systems.

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

The 2015 session secured funding for more local AIS prevention and education efforts, but Conservation Minnesota is concerned about the unstable research funding for the University of Minnesota AIS Research Center.  The Research Center only has funding for three more years, and we will be working on securing long term funding for one of the only AIS research facilities in the nation.

Other Issues

We are always supporting measures that protect local lakes and rivers and projects that improve local water resources. Proposals for additional phosphorous research, protecting sensitive surface water, and groundwater resources from detrimental land conversion, and reducing chloride pollution are all being monitored by Conservation Minnesota.