Special Session Action Alert: Support clean water & oppose raids to the Clean Water Fund
While we're focused on our clean water priorities this special session, we're also in solidarity with individuals and organizations fighting Line 3, a massive threat to water, the Mississippi River and Indigenous treaty rights and ways of life in our state. Please take a moment to visit Honor the Earth to learn more or find out how you can act on Line 3.
The Minnesota Legislature is coming back for a special session! We're asking River Guardians to weigh in on three priority environmental bills to make sure lawmakers get this right. (To see our other action alerts, check out the water blog.)
First up: The Omnibus Legacy Bill.
This Legacy Bill allocates funding from Minnesota's voter-approved Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment. In particular, we're focused on the 33% of funding dedicated to the Clean Water Fund.
1. SUPPORT: $4.5 million for the University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative. Forever Green is a research and market development program creating the next generation of "clean-water crops" like Kernza and camelina that reduce runoff pollution, improve habitat and boost farm prosperity. The House recommends $4.5 million, while the Senate recommends just $4.0 million (a slight cut from current funding levels).
2. SUPPORT: Targeted wellhead protection. The House and Senate each include $5 million for efforts to protect vulnerable drinking water wellhead areas. Some acres of land, particularly those near drinking water wellheads, have an outsized impact on water quality and public health. This program will help protect those lands and improve public health.
3. OPPOSE: Unconstitutional raids. Both the House and Senate versions of the Clean Water Fund bill violate a core constitutional premise of dedicated environmental funding: It is not to be used as a substitute for traditional sources of funding.
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP): Both the House ($2 million) and the Senate ($15.5 million) propose funding for CREP. CREP has traditionally been funded through a state bonding bill (not the Clean Water Fund).
- Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs): Both the House ($12 million) and the Senate ($24 million) propose using the Clean Water Fund as base funding for SWCDs. Local government operations, including SWCD operations, have historically been funded through a combination of state general funds and local funds (not the Clean Water Fund).
While funding for CREP and SWCDs is important, lawmakers must respect the will of voters (and the state's constitution) and refrain from using the Clean Water Fund as a substitute for traditional sources of funding.
4. SUPPORT: In the event that CREP and SWCD funding is provided for elsewhere in the budget process, there are opportunities for these funds to go towards a trio of excellent initiatives: Forever Green (up to $10 million), lead service line replacement (up to $2.5 million) and various soil health initiatives. Each effort would benefit from additional investment made available by avoiding raids for CREP and SWCDs.