Action welcome to improve MN water quality
A great benefit of living in Grand Forks is the sense that problems here have solutions. Not only can taxpayers bring issues to the attention of city leaders, but also, those leaders are likely to act, especially if a lot of people are voicing th...
A great benefit of living in Grand Forks is the sense that problems here have solutions. Not only can taxpayers bring issues to the attention of city leaders, but also, those leaders are likely to act, especially if a lot of people are voicing the complaint.
On balance, in other words - and too slowly, many times - the system works.
In the case of water quality, the same dynamic seems to be playing out in Minnesota. And that’s great news.
In that state, too, the process is slow and cumbersome.
But it’s likely to show results over time. And given the core importance of clean water to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesotans should take both great pride in the process - and steps to hurry it along.
Minnesotans’ concerns about water quality go back decades. But the state took a huge step forward in 2008. That’s when voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, a sales-tax increase that boosted funding for conservation projects.
The fact that voters raised their own taxes months into the Great Recession shows the strength of Minnesotans’ commitment to their environment.
Legacy Amendment money has paid for dozens of projects since then. And this year, another amendment project paid off. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported the initial results of its first-ever statewide assessment of lakes and rivers, an assessment partially paid for by Legacy Amendment funds.
The report could have been as soothing as loon’s call. Instead, it was as blaring as a foghorn:
“Six and a half years after Minnesotans voted to raise taxes to clean up lakes and streams, it’s clear the state has a long way to go,” the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis reported.
The MPCA’s report “shows half or more of lakes and streams monitored in the southern half of the state are plagued by bacteria, sediment, nutrients and other pollutants.
“Those bodies of water are often too nasty to swim in and can’t fully support fish and other aquatic life, according to the report.”
But as mentioned, problems in Minnesota have a way of generating solutions. So this year, partly in response to the MPCA report, lawmakers passed a notable water-quality improvement act.
Here’s the Star Tribune again: “Most Minnesota rivers, streams and ditches will get grass buffers to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and create wildlife habitat under the compromise passed Saturday by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton,” the newspaper reported in June.
The new policy “is weaker than the original proposal offered in January by the governor.” But it still will line waterways with buffer strips - including 100 percent of all public ditches, only 20 percent of which have buffers now.
“The governor said the buffer bill will be one of his most important legacies,” the Strib reported.
Water quality in Minnesota remains in the news; a Herald story about algae blooms called attention to it Monday. But the public’s concern plus officials’ responsiveness are putting protective measures in place.
Minnesotans should stay vigilant. But they can do so with some confidence that the job is getting done. - Tom Dennis for the Grand Forks Herald