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DNR seeks $266 million investment to preserve, expand portfolio of capital assets

Campsites, fish hatcheries, monitoring wells, boat ramps, license offices, dams, a tree nursery. These are some of the $3.5 billion of assets managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Money to preserve them represents a big chunk of the department’s 2023 capital request

The DNR is seeking $265.7 million with about half going to asset preservation. Funding is needed for “priorities such as improving access to the outdoors, advancing safety and community wellbeing, and rehabilitating aging — and in some cases failing — infrastructure,” per the request. 

Speaking Wednesday before the House Capital Investment Committee, Commissioner Sarah Strommen called the DNR’s portfolio of assets enormous and diverse. But, averaging 46 years old, DNR buildings are slightly older than the state average of 41 years.

Importantly, Strommen emphasized, DNR capital assets are more than boards, tiles and pavement. “You could think of a campsite, not just as a cabin, but as a place for a precious family vacation.”  

[MORE: See the DNR 10-year capital asset report]

Of the total request, nearly $133 million is to preserve existing assets – repairing and replacing buildings, bridges, roads, trails, water and wastewater systems. According to the governor’s capital budget recommendations, “The DNR's estimated total deferred maintenance for buildings alone is $155 million. The deferred maintenance estimate for all built assets is $778 million.”

There is also a current ask of $43.68 million to modernize and update existing facilities, including the Waterville Fish Hatchery, State Forest Nursery and Hibbing Drill Core Library.

Among specific capital requests are: 

  • $24 million for flood hazard mitigation grants; 
  • $18 million to acquire and improve public lands, including seeding trees after timber harvest; 
  • $14.4 million for the Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park; 
  • $9.6 million for dam safety; 
  • $9.4 million to the Hibbing and Brainerd airport for infrastructure critical for wildfire response; 
  • $6 million to improve accessibility on high-use parks; 
  • $6 million for community tree-planting grants; and  
  • $1.2 million for local parks and trail grants.  

Embedded in the DNR’s capital request is funding for the Get Out More (Modernize Outdoor Recreation Experiences) initiative. 

Half of its funding ($118 million) would come from the General Fund, with the other $118 million from bonding. That money would be used to improve, restore and modernize campgrounds, boating access, fishing infrastructure, outdoor recreation facilities, streams and water-related infrastructure.

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