Putting Minnesota on a clean water trajectory

At the end of March, eighteen interest group and agency representatives crammed into Freshwater’s conference room to discuss the status of Clean Water Council (CWC) recommendations and plan next steps for supporting the outcome of the Trajectory Project — an effort Freshwater led over the last year and a half. Shortly thereafter, Freshwater’s Jen Kader testified in House and Senate committees, speaking in support of the process that produced this year’s CWC recommendations. These are just a couple of the more recent steps in a process that has been playing out over the last year and half.

Since late 2017, Freshwater has been convening and working with a coalition of organizations and agencies to discuss how Minnesota can get — and stay — on a clean water trajectory. These are largely the same groups who, fifteen years ago, provided a blueprint for overhauling the state’s impaired waters approach. Their consensus then resulted in 31 recommendations — 27 of which are now either done or in progress. Minnesota is now on a better trajectory, but with so much completed many were beginning to wonder, “which direction now?”

That’s precisely the question we sought to answer. With 2034 on the horizon (the final year of funding under the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment), we’re at a critical juncture to choose how and where to make tangible changes that will move the state closer to its water resource goals. Thanks to generous funding from the McKnight Foundation, we were able to bring these groups back together. This time, the conversations resulted in recommendations to update the vision for Clean Water Funds, narrow the focus for their spending, and adjust staffing and the budgeting process to develop more cohesive and broadly-supported CWC budget recommendations.

This work is already beginning to pay off. In preparing recommendations for this year’s budget, the Council worked more transparently than it had in the past, and in an iterative process with the agencies to produce unified recommendations to the Governor. Several recommendations are underway, including the Council’s hiring of a lead staff person to help represent it at the legislature and with the agencies.

Freshwater will continue to shepherd the recommendations from this report over the next couple of years. Check out the report on our website and learn more about how Legacy funds are supporting work in your community and around the state. We’d like to thank McKnight for their support of this work, as well as the 18 groups who have collaborated in this process (listed on the back cover of the report).