Clean Water Accountability Act
Minnesota's prized waterways are in dire need of a cleanup. When Minnesotans authorized funds for clean water in 2008, they expected to see results. There are two primary issues that must be addressed:
- Cleaning up nonpoint source pollution such as agricultural runoff; and
- Better targeting of Clean Water Fund dollars by agencies.
What's the solution? The Clean Water Accountability Act.
Protecting trout streams
New provisions in the Omnibus Environment Budget bill will help protect fragile trout streams from intensive frac sand mining. Recent dramatic increases in frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota has given rise to grassroots pressure to increase protections and assist local governments in managing the effects of large mining facilities on local residents and the environment.
On May 13, the Conference Committee on the Environment Omnibus budget bill (HF 976
) agreed to insert important trout stream protection language that has been worked out among industry, residents of the sand mining area, the DNR, and conservation and environmental advocates.
Under the new agreement, silica sand mining cannot be done in southeastern Minnesota (Driftless Area) within one mile of a trout stream unless the DNR commissioner issues a special permit. This language provides protection for sensitive cold-water fisheries from the effects of frac sand mining, an industry whose rapid expansion has alarmed residents of lands adjacent to sand resources.
For the first time, this legislation gives the DNR authority to restrict sand extraction activity near sensitive water resources. Before issuing a permit, the DNR commissioner must require the applicant to conduct a comprehensive hydrogeologic study. The commissioner must establish setbacks from trout stream and springs that are necessary to protect the trout stream. The DNR can attach whatever restrictions are "necessary to protect" the trout streams. The DNR can also assess the applicant for the costs incurred by the DNR in conducting the study and assessing options to protect the water resources and trout habitat.
Senator Matt Schmit and Representative Rick Hansen were the legislators spearheading efforts to impose limitations on frac sand mining. Trout Unlimited was the lead organization and deserves recognition for their hard work this session. MCEA was pleased to serve in a consulting role and to assist with lobbying efforts. In addition, the Governor and the DNR provided strong leadership in working to protect cold-water fisheries from the effects of sand mining.
An effort was made this session to renew the DNR’s lapsed authority to update statewide shoreland standards and to bring thoughtful management of lakeshore development into the 21st century.
Senator Chris Eaton offered an amendment brought to her by MCEA along with Anglers for Habitat and Minnesota Conservation Federation. Her amendment was adopted easily in the Environment Policy committee, renewing the authority of the DNR to update the outdated shoreland rules.
Although the amendment added in Senate Environment committee survived a trip to Senate Local Government Committee, the language was eventually removed by Senator Tomassoni when the bill went through his committee.No discussion occurred in that committee.
Therefore, this amendment is dead for the 2013 session, with the DNR unable to move forward with commonsense shoreland standard updates.