Clean Water Fund: Our concerns in the latest Senate proposal

A couple of paddlers in a canoe on the Mississippi River, seen from high above. The shore is lined with golden and red trees.

The Clean Water Fund is pivotal to a clean, healthy Mississippi River — and its hundreds of tributaries in Minnesota. (Photo by David Wheaton)

The Minnesota Minnesota Senate Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee recently advanced its Legacy Budget Omnibus Bill. The bill includes $25.4 million in supplemental Clean Water Fund appropriations. 

FMR has some concerns with the Clean Water Fund portion of the bill as it is currently constructed, because it departs from the council’s recommendations in a manner that we do not support. Of the council’s 14 recommendations, the amendment modifies nine of them — including high-priority public health initiatives. 

The bill also includes more than $6 million in appropriations (that's about 24% of the total available surplus) that were not included in the council’s recommendations. We are concerned that the bill partially funds new items by redirecting funding away from high-priority drinking water protection initiatives recommended by the Council.

We sent a letter to the committee, outlining some of our specific concerns. You can read that letter here.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of time for lawmakers to pass a bill that sticks to the Clean Water Council's revised recommendations (which you can read about below, in our March 20 update). 

Learn more about the Clean Water Fund, the Clean Water Council, and the importance of this source of funding.

Previous updates

March 20: Revised Clean Water Fund recommendations earn NGO support

At their March 18 meeting, Minnesota’s Clean Water Council revealed revised recommendations for spending the $25.426 million surplus in the Clean Water Fund. Below, read the letter of support we submitted to the Minnesota Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee

Letter of support

March 18th, 2024
Re: Supplemental Clean Water Fund recommendations 

Chair Hawj and committee members, 

As you know, Minnesotans voted to adopt the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008. One-third of the revenue from the amendment is allocated to the Clean Water Fund. The State’s recently revised budget forecast shows a total surplus in the Clean Water Fund of $25.426 million. 

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our appreciation for the work of the Clean Water Council in preparing supplemental Clean Water Fund recommendations that direct the surplus toward numerous initiatives we support, including: 

  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA): Nitrate in Groundwater ($1.0 million) and AgBMP Loan Program ($3.402 million). 
  • Minnesota Department of Health (MDH): Drinking Water Contaminants of Emerging Concern ($384,000) and Southeast Minnesota Nitrate Response ($2.79 million). 
  • Department of Natural Resources (DNR): Fish Contamination Assessment ($90,000). 
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA): River and Lake Monitoring and Assessment ($326,000), Enhanced County Inspection/SSTS Corrective Actions ($2.0 million), Chloride Reduction Grants ($1.0 million) and Continuous Nitrate Sensor Network ($2.0 million). 
  • Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative LAMP match ($1.0 million), Critical Shoreland Protection Easements ($4.0 million), Working Land and Floodplain Easements ($4.434 million) and Clean Water Partners Legacy small grants ($2.0 million). 
  • The University of Minnesota: Stormwater BMP Performance Evaluation & Technology Transfer ($1.0 million). 

We are also pleased to see that the recommendations do not include funding for private well measures that had raised constitutional concerns. Such investments, which are critical for protecting public health, are best made through traditional means, as reflected by the Governor's 2024‐25 Supplemental Budget Recommendations

We encourage you to advance a 2024 Legacy Bill that reflects the Council’s recommendations.

Sincerely, 

Friends of the Mississippi River
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy 
Conservation Minnesota
Northern Waters Land Trust
CURE
Land Stewardship Project 
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Well Owners Organization 

Read more about the Clean Water Fund, the Clean Water Council, and the importance of this source of funding.

March 6: Revised state budget forecast boosts Clean Water Fund

The State of Minnesota recently revised its budget and economic outlook upward, projecting a $3.715 billion surplus (an increase of $1.324 billion compared to November projections). That turned out to be good news for the state’s Clean Water Fund as well.

The Clean Water Fund previously showed a surplus of just over $18 million. The most recent state budget forecast means there is an additional $7.37 million in funds available. As a result, the total surplus in the Clean Water Fund is now up to $25.4 million.

FMR looks forward to working with legislators and the Clean Water Council to ensure these funds are used to help address Minnesota’s most pressing water quality challenges and opportunities.

Read more about the Clean Water Fund, the Clean Water Council, and the importance of this source of funding.

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