A chance to be heard on Minnesota's waters

Do you want to have a say in the future of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and groundwater? Do you have an opinion on what pollution threats the waters face, and what should be done to protect and clean them?

If you do, the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center wants to hear from you. You can make your voice heard in two ways: By filling out a 14-question on-line survey, or by attending and speaking up at a series of public meetings across the state.

Last spring, the Minnesota Legislature voted to spend $750,000 – money coming from the sales tax increase that voters approved in 2008 — to have the Water Resources Center prepare a 25-year planning document for assuring the sustainability of state water resources.

The plan, called a “comprehensive statewide sustainable water resources detailed framework” in the bill appropriating the money, is to be submitted to lawmakers in January 2011.

The legislation defined sustainability as use that “does not harm ecosystems, degrade water quality or compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Soliciting citizen input is one of the first stages of preparing the framework.

“We really do want to hear from Minnesotans,” said Barbara Liukkonen, who is directing the public-input part of the work. “We don’t want the framework to be put together by the water experts, the agency people.”

The on-line survey, which available through April to anyone who logs on to the Water Resources Center web site – www.wrc.umn.edu – asks respondents to say what they think are the most important uses of water in Minnesota, what are the most serious problems afflicting waters, how money should be divided up between protecting clean waters and cleaning up waters that already are polluted, and how policy-makers should balance the need to take action vs. the importance of waiting for complete research results.

The survey is not a random, statistically valid sampling of public opinion. But Liukonnen said framework planners think the results will be useful as an indication of how people feel.

In addition to the survey, the Water Resources Center has scheduled public meetings around the state for people to give their opinions on water issues. Each meeting will run from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., and from 4 to 6 p.m. The first session of each meeting is for water professionals from agencies such as conservation and watershed districts. The second session of each meeting is for citizens and elected and appointed officials.

Meetings were held Jan. 19 in St. Cloud and Jan. 21 in Chaska.

The remaining meetings will be:

  • Feb. 3, The University of Minnesota, Crookston’s Youngquist Auditorium, 2900 University Ave., Crookston.
  • Feb. 4, Northland Auditorium, 14250 Conservation Drive, Baxter.
  • Feb. 10, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Building, 525 S. Lake Ave., Duluth.
  • Feb. 11, Holiday Inn South, 1630 S. Broadway, Rochester.
  • Feb. 16,   Best Western Marshall Inn, 1500 E. College Drive, Marshall.
  • Feb. 18, Thompson Park Center-Dakota Lodge, 1200 Stassen Lane, West St. Paul.
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