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In 2008, Minnesotans voted yes on the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in order to make targeted investments in the widely shared priority of protecting and restoring our state's precious water resources.
Fully 40 percent of our lakes, rivers and streams do not meet clean water standards, and because of this, the federal Clean Water Act requires a cleanup plan. Clean water is a vital part of healthy communities, strong economies and Minnesotans' way of life. While the Legacy Amendment allows a major investment in cleaning-up our state's waters, our current efforts fall short of the results Minnesotans deserve.
This year, lawmakers took a significant step forward in improving our state's clean water efforts. The Clean Water Accountability Act (CWAA) authored by me and Rep. John Persell lays out four specific requirements for our watershed restoration and protection plans: accurately identify pollution sources; specify pollution reduction goals; develop priority funding plans; and report back to Minnesotans.
Currently, information about the sources of water pollution is too vague. For example, cloudy water is often associated with "upland soil erosion and stream-bank erosion," but where and how this erosion is actually happening lacks clarity. By not pin-pointing the precise erosion source, the state cannot pursue effective cleanup plans and effectively target clean water resources. Under the approved CWAA, we create higher standards for how pollution
sources are correctly identified and reported. More accurate identification means better pollution reporting and targeted solutions.
Our past water cleanup plans also lack timelines, reduction goals and benchmarks for progress making it impossible to know whether our cleanup efforts work. In the 15 years Minnesota has worked on federally mandated water cleanup plans, only three lakes and 12 river segments have been cleaned up. The CWAA requires each plan to have deadlines and milestones that provide a roadmap to clean water. Furthermore, the Act calls for effective monitoring strategies to ensure we are on the right track.
On top of requiring a roadmap to clean water, the CWAA directs the Board of Water and Soil Resources to develop a priority funding plan that targets the most effective projects first, so Minnesotans get the best bang for their clean water buck. The new priority funding plan will target identified nonpoint pollution sources by taking into account water quality outcomes, cost-effectiveness, landowner financial need, and the non-state funding sources needed.
Finally, we are reporting back to Minnesotans on the progress we are making toward clean water. The people chose to invest this money and they deserve to know what projects receive support and the effectiveness of cleanup plans. Progress is possible when those in charge of making changes are held accountable. It is our goal to make the clean water process more transparent.
Our passage of the Clean Water Accountability Act this year will help move Minnesota forward in our efforts to restore the state's freshwater resources. We worked hard to reach out to stakeholders and collaborate with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, and conservation organizations like the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, which represents more than 75 groups such as the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Clean Water Action, and Friends of the Mississippi River. We also connected with cities, counties, watersheds, and state farm organizations to develop good policy that makes a significant difference. The Clean Water Accountability Act establishes a solid framework to ensure taxpayer dollars spent from the Legacy fund result in real progress and cleaner water. This is a major victory for our communities, economies and way of life.
John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, represents District 36 in the Minnesota State Senate, where he is vice chair of the Environment and Energy Committee.