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House environment panel OKs bill to appropriate $47 million from state's Clean Water Fund

HF4377 would appropriate $47.4 million from the state's Clean Water Fund in fiscal year 2023 across seven organizations for a total of 14 projects. (Image courtesy the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy)
HF4377 would appropriate $47.4 million from the state's Clean Water Fund in fiscal year 2023 across seven organizations for a total of 14 projects. (Image courtesy the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy)

Replacing lead service lines, monitoring for contaminants and funding conservation reserve enhancement programs would be some focuses of the proposed state appropriation from the Clean Water Fund.

Sponsored Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), HF4377 would appropriate $47.4 million in fiscal year 2023 across seven organizations for a total of 14 projects. The bill, as amended, was approved 12-6 by the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee Thursday and referred to the House Legacy Finance Committee.

The Clean Water Fund is part of the Legacy Amendment established in 2008 as a constitutional amendment passed by voters who agreed to a three-eighths of 1% state sales tax increase to generate money to benefit natural and cultural resources. The fund receives 33% of that revenue and must be spent “only to protect, enhance, and restore water quality in lakes, rivers, and streams and to protect groundwater from degradation.”

“I think each of these components within this appropriation bill meets the standard of the constitution and, more importantly, these are pressing issues that need attention,” Hansen said. “We’re looking at problem solving here. Problem solving that can work on specific pollutants but preventing pollution in the future, trying to get a better handle on these contaminants and where they’re impacting.”

Under the bill, the Board of Water and Soil Resources would receive $7.67 million for conservation easements and another $7.67 million to purchase and restore peatlands.

The Metropolitan Council and the Public Facilities Authority would each receive $7.67 million for grants to cities and other public water suppliers to replace the privately owned portion of residential lead drinking water service lines.

The Pollution Control Agency would receive:

  • $5 million to develop protocols for sampling and testing water for micro and nano plastics;
  • $2 million to monitor tributaries, including trout streams, near the shores of Lake Superior for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances;
  • $2 million to monitor private wells in Washington County for PFAS;
  • $2 million to monitor the Mississippi River for metals, PFAS and other contaminants found in Pigs Eye Lake;
  • $2 million to collect lead sinkers and other water quality activities as part of the Get the Lead Out program; and
  • $400,000 to monitor ground and surface waters in the Battle Creek Watershed for PFAS.

The bill would appropriate $2 million to the Department of Agriculture to monitor trout streams in southeastern Minnesota for the presence of neonicotinoids and monitor and test for micro and nano plastics.

The Department of Natural Resources would receive $402,000 – with $45,000 going to the Pollution Control Agency and $31,000 to the Board of Water and Soil Resources – for a report on state peatlands. The DNR would also receive $500,000 for a grant to the Conservation Corps Minnesota for restoration and enhancement activities.

The University of Minnesota would receive $437,000 to “optimize detection methods, determine environmental occurrence, and evaluate the risk to Minnesota's fish populations of the toxic tire-derived chemical 6PPDq.”

Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) noted the bill was created without a recommendation of the Clean Water Council.

“This committee is fully capable of spending the $47 million-plus without any input from the Clean Water Council,” Heintzeman said. “It appears that’s exactly what we’re doing. … They have not made a recommendation as to how to disperse, recommend the $47 million be dispersed. Typically, that is the scenario.”

Hansen said the council’s recommendation would probably not occur until the fall, delaying the appropriations to May 2023.

“I don’t believe we have time to wait a year for the process to occur,” Hansen said. “As legislators we can make that decision and be accountable to the voters for that decision. I’m fully prepared to do that.”

The bill’s companion, SF4125, is sponsored by Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee.

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