When Kirby defied the odds

Mr. Puckett

by Steve Woods, executive director

     Sixteen interest groups you wouldn’t think had a lot in common got together 14 years ago to work on something they DID all care about — avoiding the economic stagnation and legal entanglements that would afflict Minnesota if we couldn’t find a way to accelerate compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.
     Last year we approached those participants, plus a couple additional ones, to see if they would like to reconvene. Every single one did, including eight people who were part of the original process. It was pretty amazing to see their faces at the first meeting when we noted that 27 of their 31 previous recommendations were either done or nearing completion. That just doesn’t happen in public policy work. It was like Kirby Puckett going 10 for 11 against the Brewers in 1987!
     There is a lot going right with Minnesota water management yet the people in the group had an uneasiness about them. It became clear why ­– the 14-year-old vision was pretty much done. The state had embarked on a better path but had not yet produced an updated vision about how the system would work now that basic federal compliance has been substantially achieved.
We wrapped up the workshops just before the legislative session began. Freshwater is compiling a report of their findings and recommendations for use after the session ends in May. Our intent is to use the perspectives of the group to help inform deliberations during the 2019 session.
We are also releasing the third and final report in our Water Underground series this month (see next story). Freshwater’s work in the 1980s was critical to the passage of the Minnesota Groundwater Protection Act of 1989 and we are confident our groundwater reports of 2013-2018 will form a solid technical base refreshing this act for the next three decades to come. We aim to make this a priority during the 2019 session as well.
We are increasingly primed for the 2019 session, but you may be wondering what are we doing nowduring the 2018 session. We are voicing support as part of a coalition led by the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association for a bill designed to reduce winter deicer application by private applicators, pressing for environmental bonding for conservation and water treatment, and seeking restoration of last session’s unexpected $22M shift of dollars onto Clean Water Funds from the General Fund.