John Helland: Water Framework Plan Deserves to be Taken Seriously
The weakening of several water standards and regulations by legislative action this session is very curious and troubling. It seems almost paradoxical that this distrust and attack on our water regulations is happening the same year that a legislatively-mandated framework plan to provide a sustainable water resources future was delivered to the legislature.
The framework plan, "Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework", provides a 25-year roadmap that frames water sustainability issues, and provides strategies and recommendations for addressing those issues. Although not intended to be a specific spending plan for the Clean Water Fund, it was funded by monies (3/4 of a million dollars) from that fund that also will last for at least 25 years. So one can conclude that the desired strategies in the framework plan would certainly help guide the expenditure of monies from the Clean Water Fund.
One of the key essential five top actions in the framework plan is to: "Comply with water quality standards through implementation plans for reducing pollutants, and bring farmers to the table to be part of the solution." Another is to address future contaminants. Now look at the probable top five state water standards presently under attack in the House and Senate budget bills.
They are (in no particular order):
- lowering standards for phosphorus in Lake Pepin;
- letting the legislature devise a lesser standard for sulfide pollution in wild rice;
- placing a two-year moratorium on new water rules;
- weakening the standards for large agricultural feedlots; and
- prohibiting new protective rules for the urban Mississippi river corridor.
None of the above legislative provisions in play will help provide a sustainable water resources future for Minnesota. If enacted, we will be going backwards in our traditional efforts to devise a sustainable water policy. The framework plan is a very substantive document and deserves to be taken seriously, not only in 2011, but throughout the next 25 years. (Full disclosure: I was a committee team member that assisted in developing a portion of the framework plan under the auspices of the University of Minnesota Water Resources Research Center.)