The legislative session is humming along. A great number of bills were introduced and many that had companions in the House and Senate have been rolled into the big omnibus bills in those two chambers. Expect negotiations to begin in earnest after the Easter break.
Freshwater has two main priorities: funding a groundwater recharge study (HF 1141/SF 1643 (Rep. Sandell/Sen. Weber) and shepherding the Clean Water Council budget recommendations through the session. We have met individually with many legislators, testified at committee hearings, and are happy to say that we have passed all hurdles to date as these are largely bipartisan and broadly-supported efforts.
We are also closely following and supporting a number of bills. Some involve efforts to increase the amount of grass, cover crops, or perennial cover on the landscape through easement programs. You may have heard acronyms – such as RIM (Reinvest in Minnesota) and CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) – or short-hand descriptions like “working lands.” Hunters and those concerned about pollinator decline support these programs that increase grassland habitat; farmers appreciate being compensated for setting land aside or being allowed to continue to graze or hay grassland. Through its Forever Green Initiative, the University is also continuing research on perennial crops that are good for water quality. Freshwater sees all of these as essential tools to improve both surface water and groundwater quality by reducing runoff, erosion, and leaching of nutrients. Here are two examples:
- HF 1079/SF 1682 (Rep. Morrison/Sen. Lang) establishes RIM easements for grasslands initiatives.
- HF 1569/SF 1637 (Rep. Lippert/Sen. Ruud) establishes a program to promote certain crops that would improve water and soil quality.
Freshwater also supports a bill to certify commercial applicators of de-icing salt (HF 1502/SF 1667 (Rep. Fischer/Sen. Ruud). We need to judiciously use salt because it is permanently accumulating in our lakes, streams, and groundwater causing negative impacts, mainly in the metro area. This bill is still in play and made it farther this session than last thanks to the efforts of StopOverSalting (SOS), a volunteer citizen group.
— by Carrie Jennings, research and policy director