As the 2019 legislative session enters its final weeks, we want to update you on the status of priorities for protecting Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. Both the Minnesota House and Senate have passed omnibus bills that include important provisions for clean water. Now, those bills will go to conference committees to resolve the differences. Here is a summary of key provisions:
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention and Research
The House omnibus bill (H.F. 2209) includes a needed update to the AIS surcharge which has not been increased since 1993. The surcharge change will increase funding to lake associations for AIS prevention and treatment and provides ongoing support for the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC.) The Senate omnibus bill (S.F. 2314) does not include the AIS surcharge increase and will reduce DNR’s ability to fund AIS work.
Clean Water by 2040
The House has passed a bill that (H.F. 653) allocates Clean Water Fund dollars to important on-the-ground projects for restoring and protecting lakes and rivers and – for the first time – sets a goal for making lakes and rivers swimmable and fishable by 2040. So far, the Senate has not included this language in its bill (S.F. 836).
Take action to encourage the Legislature to make sure we are making real progress in achieving clean water for our lakes and rivers.
Water Infrastructure Investments
In early March, the Legislature approved a bill to fix a raid by last year’s Legislature on the Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund which attempted to pay the interest on wastewater treatment bonds by using Trust Fund dollars, which has never been done before. This year’s bill refinanced the projects with regular bonds, which protected the Trust Fund and saved the state millions of dollars because regular bonds are less expensive.
This solution also allowed these important wastewater treatment projects to move forward right away. This represented a significant victory for clean water early in the session. The House has proposed more funding for wastewater treatment in another bonding bill, but the future of additional bonding this session is uncertain.
Reducing chloride pollution in lakes, rivers, and streams
Conservation Minnesota is partnering with a wide coalition of groups to continue work to pass legislation that aims to reduce chloride pollution caused by excessive salt application. The House omnibus bill (H.F. 2209) includes language that will create a voluntary certification process for salt applicators that will help address this problem. The Senate bill does not include this language.
Honest Labeling of Disposable Wipes
Disposable wipes such as those used for personal hygiene, changing diapers, and housekeeping have created big problems across Minnesota when users flush the wipes down the toilet. Even wipes labeled as “Flushable” often do not decompose, and end up clogging municipal sewer pipes, causing back-ups and overflows while costing local taxpayers millions. The Legislature did not address this issue in the 2019 session.