Governor Mark Dayton says he will “soon propose legislation that would set a goal for the state to improve its water quality by 25 percent by the year 2025. Dayton told attendees at the “Environmental Congress” meeting at the U-of-M in St. Paul that his plan won’t be a regulation, but instead a call to action. He says there will be town hall meetings from July through October, then a water quality summit the following January to bring together ideas for his legislative proposal.
Here are the governor’s remarks:
News release from the Governor’s Office:
Governor Mark Dayton today announced a new “25 by ‘25” Water Quality Goal, which would spur innovation and collaboration around strategies to improve Minnesota’s water quality 25 percent by 2025. Without additional action, the quality of Minnesota’s waters is expected to improve only 6 to 8 percent by 2034. If approved by the Legislature, Governor Dayton’s proposed new goal would engage local governments, farmers, scientists, environmental groups, and business leaders in a collaborative effort to address Minnesota’s water quality challenges.
“Without an ambitious, achievable goal, the quality of our water will continue to deteriorate,” said Governor Dayton. “Minnesotans must set this goal now, and then work together to achieve it. I ask all Minnesotans to join me in finding solutions that will ensure our children and grandchildren inherit clean water to drink, swim, and fish in. This is everyone’s challenge, and everyone’s responsibility.”
Achieving a 25 percent improvement in water quality statewide would require Minnesota to take aggressive, yet achievable action. It also would help Minnesota meet existing commitments to reduce phosphorus 12 percent by 2025 and nitrogen 45 percent by 2040 in the Mississippi River.
Governor Dayton’s “25 by ‘25” Water Quality Goal would not add additional regulations. It is instead a call to action to drive public engagement and partnerships to address the state’s growing water quality issues. The goal also would be flexible, allowing each of Minnesota’s eight local watershed regions to decide which pollutants to address, and strategies to employ.
Improving water quality by 25 percent by 2025 would not entirely eliminate the threats and challenges to Minnesota’s waters. But setting and achieving this goal would make a significant impact on the quality of our waters and ensure they are more swimmable, fishable, and drinkable for future generations. Take, for example, what a 25 percent improvement in water quality would mean for these Minnesota waters:
- Forget-Me-Not-Lake, Becker County – A 25 percent reduction in phosphorus at Forget-Me-Not-Lake in Becker County will increase water clarity enhancing swimming and recreation as well as supporting the lake’s aquatic life.
- Como Lake, Ramsey County – A 25 percent reduction in phosphorus at Como Lake in Ramsey County will greatly reduce algae problems, improve clarity, and better support aquatic life.
- German-Jefferson Chain of Lakes, Le Sueur County – A 25 percent reduction in phosphorus at the German-Jefferson Chain of Lakes in Le Sueur County will put a dent in the 60 percent reduction needed to address major algae problems.
- Budd Lake, Martin County – A 25 percent reduction in nitrate at Budd Lake in Martin County will protect public health as nitrate levels have exceeded drinking water standards and have led to disruptions in drinking water supplies.
- Cannon/Whitewater Rivers, Olmsted and Winona Counties – A 25 percent reduction in bacteria will increase the number of days that the Cannon River in Goodhue and the Whitewater River in Olmsted and Winona County are safe for swimming, canoeing, and tubing.
Minnesota Faces Serious Water Quality Challenges
Despite the state’s abundance of lakes, rivers, groundwater and streams, more than 40 percent of Minnesota’s waters are currently listed as impaired or polluted. Damaging aquatic invasive species have infested more than 550 lakes statewide. In addition, the water treatment plants and clean drinking water systems that make Minnesotans’ water safe are in serious disrepair. Experts estimate that Minnesota communities will need $11 billion in water infrastructure improvements over the next two decades.
Governor Dayton’s Opportunity Agenda: Clean, Affordable Water for All
Governor Dayton’s 2017 Opportunity Agenda for a Better Minnesota would make critical investments to provide clean, affordable water for all Minnesotans, everywhere in Minnesota. Learn more about the Governor’s major proposals below.
- Improving Water Quality at its Source – Governor Dayton has proposed a $214 million investment from Minnesota’s Clean Water Fund. This funding will support local government efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in Minnesota water and protect sensitive groundwater and drinking water resources. Doing so will reduce water pollution, save money, and provide more reliable sources of drinking water.
- Funding Farmers, Protecting Waters – In January 2017, Governor Dayton signed a landmark agreement to provide $350 million in federal funding directly to Minnesota farmers, while working to protect and improve waters across 60,000 acres in 54 Minnesota counties. As part of the agreement, Minnesota must commit $150 million in funding, with $54.8 million already invested. Governor Dayton is proposing to invest $30 million for this effort as part of his Opportunity Agenda, to protect and improve our waters while supporting Minnesota farmers.
- Water Quality Buffer Aid Payments – In 2015, Governor Dayton and bipartisan lawmakers in the Legislature started a new effort to protect and improve water quality in Minnesota, requiring water quality buffers to reduce runoff into Minnesota waters. To help alleviate the cost of compliance for Minnesota farmers, the Dayton Opportunity Agenda would invest $40 an acre to provide direct payments to farmers implementing water quality buffers on their land.
- Water Infrastructure Funding Program – Governor Dayton’s Jobs Bill would provide $80 million for the Water Infrastructure Funding Program to increase aid to communities that are rehabilitating aging wastewater and drinking water infrastructure systems. Grant funding is based on the average household income of residents and is designed to keep clean water affordable for Minnesotans.
- Point Source Implementation Grant Program – Approximately 4,603 bodies of water in Minnesota are now impaired – meaning they aren’t swimmable, fishable, or most importantly, drinkable. The Dayton Jobs Bill would invest $62 million in the Point Source Implementation Grant Program to help lift the burden on local governments to pay for needed water treatment plant upgrades, begin improving water quality across the state, and reduce water costs for Minnesota consumers.