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Minnesota’s Clean Water Legacy Amendment: Impact at National Scale to Undo a Century of Degradation

November 13, 2013Patrick NunnallyFormer Featured PostsComments Off on Minnesota’s Clean Water Legacy Amendment: Impact at National Scale to Undo a Century of Degradation

A week ago yesterday was Election Day, which I personally barely noticed because I had not been inundated with television ads telling me that [whoever the ad’s opponent is] threatens the very basis of democracy as we know it.  For once, we weren’t being told that this election is The Most Important Election in Our Lifetime.

The lack of attention to this year’s election should not let us overlook the truly remarkable election results in Minnesota five years ago.  In 2008, Minnesotans voted to raise taxes on themselves to provide a steady 25 year source of funds to improve water quality, enhance parks, recreation, trails, and wildlife habitat, and support arts and cultural heritage work.

This remarkable achievement, known in shorthand as the “Legacy Amendment,” has allowed government agencies concerned with water quality to take a longer view in addressing the state’s needs, rather than only being able to respond to crises after they occur.  The first step was to develop a Water Sustainability Framework to identify key challenges, define the most urgent research, governance and planning needs to meet those challenges, and to serve as a guide for ongoing investment.

The work is bearing fruit.  Last week, in recognition of this five year anniversary, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released a press statement describing some of the more innovative and visible long term efforts to enhance water quality in certain parts of the state.  These include:

  • more detailed water quality monitoring at a watershed scale, rather than just along individual sections of selected streams;
  • a long term program of restoration and cleanup in the St. Louis River, near Duluth;
  • continued detailed attention to the ongoing efforts to clean up the Minnesota River.

The Minnesota River is one of the largest single sources of the nutrients that make up the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.  The St. Louis River, which empties into Lake Superior, has suffered extensive damage from industrial uses for the past 130 years.  It is fair to say, then, that the Clean Water Legacy Amendment is having an important effect at the national scale and is working to reverse better than a century of degradation.

Maybe the 2008 election, at least in Minnesota, really WAS The Most Important Election in Our Lifetime!

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