Dayton's water quality summit a go. Help set the agenda!
Governor Dayton recently announced that his administration will host the Governor's Water Summit in St. Paul on Saturday, February 27th.
Bringing citizens, water quality experts, legislators, regulators and other stakeholders together, the summit aims to focus public attention on the serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water and propose meaningful solutions to address them.
FMR and our conservation partners are working with administration staff to help shape the summit and provide a much-needed focus on ideas that can help address agricultural pollution in particular. With our partners, we'll also be developing policy briefings and other educational materials for attendees who wish to protect and restore the quality of our rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater resources.
Summit registration was open to the public but filled quite rapidly. But you can still play a role and help to set the summit's agenda by taking the Governor's Clean Water Summit Survey. And if you'd like to be notified directly about similar opportunities in the future, please let us know by signing up as an FMR River Protector.
Governor Dayton is wise to prioiritize the need to address pollution to our state's surface waters and groundwater, including the largest source of pollution to the Mississippi River: agriculture. With the Governor's summit and the 2016 legislative session fast approaching, FMR would like to offer some specific policy ideas for consideration by the Governor and the legislature.
Governor Dayton could take the following steps under his own authority without requiring legislative action.
• Direct the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to correct the buffer maps to include 50-foot buffers on all public waters as directed by the Governor's 2015 Buffer Bill, rather than only those public waters included in existing county shoreland classification maps. This change would result in significantly more lake and river shoreland subject to the 50-foot buffer requirement.
• Reform the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program to ensure that certified farms meet water quality standards.
• Protect drinking water by directing the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to fully implement the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan.
• Direct the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to adopt a statewide restriction on nitrogen fertilizer application on farms in the fall and on frozen soils in all cases.
The following comon sense policy ideas should be considered for adoption by the Governor and the legislature in 2016.
• Fully fund the University of Minnesota's Forever Green Initiative to develop innovative, economically viable cropping systems that also protect our land, air and water.
• Complete the Minnesota perennial biofuels incentive program to provide an incentive for farmers to grow cover crops and perennial crops that produce fuel while restoring land and water.
• Reestablish the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizen's Board to restore public oversight over the decisions of this important state agency.
Major policy reform prioirities
Addressing Minnesota's intractable water quality challenges will require bold ideas and systemic changes. Here are two policy innovations that could begin to significantly restore the health of Minnesota's rivers, lakes and streams.
• Establish mandatory permits for installation of agricultural drain tile systems. Drain tile systems are the top source of nitrate pollution to the Mississippi River and can be installed on farms without a permit and without any pollution controls. It's time to treat drain tile systems like any other end-of-pipe pollution source with strict permits and mandatory pollution standards.
• Establish a state perennial cellulosic biofuel standard. Minnesota uses a 10% ethanol blend in our gasoline; ethanol made entirely from corn. Requiring a portion of that blend to come from perennial crops will protect water, land and habitat while diversifying and rejuvenating our farm economy.