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MN Water Quality Becomes a Hot Topic in Politics

Legislation authored by Senator Kathy Sheran (DFL – Mankato) which directs the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to establish a coordinated effort for water cleanup in the Minnesota River Basin passed the Environment and Energy Committee on Thursday and State and Local Government Committee today.

Under the bill, BWSR would be directed to develop goals and strategies for the basin by 2018, including sediment reduction, flow reduction, and nutrient reduction. Plans must be completed by 2021. Additionally, BWSR must submit a report to the legislature every two years starting Jan. 15, 2018 on the progress of the goals and strategies.

The legislation would provide the BWSR $250,000 to coordinate the collaborative effort. Additionally, $1 million will be awarded in grants up to $250,000 to local government units within watershed to initiate watershed management plans.

“The Minnesota River continues to experience significant water quality and quantity problems – and the current lack of a basin-wide approach adversely impacts both navigation and recreational trails, degrades wildlife habitats, and increases the frequency and severity of flooding,” said Sen. Sheran. “This bill integrates local plans for river cleanup in each water district with overall goals for the Minnesota River as a whole.”

Last session, the Legislature formally established the One Watershed, One Plan to facilitate the development of one water plan for each major watershed in the state. This legislation works within the One Watershed, One Plan framework while also ensuring a coordinated and more efficient approach to improving water quality in the Minnesota River.

“During this process, we worked alongside advocates to introduce and amend this plan to ensure the effort employs a bottom-up approach driven by local stakeholders,” Sen. Sheran ended. “The ultimate goal here is to implement a coordinated effort to reduce sediments, nutrients, and flow within the basin. Collaboration is key if we wish to achieve the shared obligations and responsibilities to realize the basin goals over time.”