2017 Legislative Preview

Advocating to clean up and protect our lakes, rivers, and water resources

January 27, 2017

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

New AIS discoveries continue to pop up in lakes and rivers across the state – think starry stonewort or spiny waterflea – and these discoveries remind us the importance that AIS research can play in understanding AIS and learning how to prevent the damage AIS can do to our aquatic ecosystems. Conservation Minnesota will continue to advocate for consistent funding for research at University of Minnesota AIS Research Center. The Research Center only has temporary funding for two more years, and we will be working on securing long term funding for one of the only AIS research facilities in the nation. Conservation Minnesota will also advocate for local funding so that communities can maintain strong AIS outreach and education programs to help protect the long term health of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and water resources.

Robust Buffer Implementation

Some legislators are targeting the new buffer law (first passed in 2015, then modified in 2016) by looking to limit or rollback the buffer requirements or alternative practices instituted in the law. We strongly support robust buffer law implementation, including fair, efficient, and comprehensive policies to help local governments who choose to take an active role implementing the law. Vegetative buffers and similar alternative practices are hugely needed to protect our lakes, rivers, and water resources and we will defend the law from those trying to limit or repeal it.

Revisit the Bonding Proposals

CREP

An agreement has been reached between the US Department of Agriculture and the State of Minnesota to invest over $500 million in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP works to develop voluntary agreements where landowners agree to place conservation easements on lands protecting wetlands, shorelines, and wellhead protection areas. The federal government has agreed to pay about $350 million towards CREP if Minnesota can produce about $150 million. So far the state has secured about one third of the necessary matching funds, but additional funds are still needed. The Governor has proposed $30 million in bond funds to be used for CREP and additional lawmaker support is needed so that Minnesota can capitalize on this valuable opportunity to protect our water resources.

Other clean water-related bonding proposals include $167 million 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 proposals 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 water quality of local lakes, rivers, and drinking water could suffer.

The Governor has incorporated $25.4 million in his bonding proposal to clean up the Duluth Harbor and improve water quality in Lake Superior’s largest estuary. The state’s contribution would trigger $47.5 million in federal matching funds. The monies are needed because decades ago the St. Louis River was a dumping point for industrial waste and toxic sediment has accumulated in the river. This proposal is part of a multi-year, multi-agency plan to remediate the pollution, restore aquatic habitat, and improve water quality in the Lake Superior watershed.

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.

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.