Water Train: a wreck for Minnesota’s groundwater

The proposal to export water from Dakota County’s groundwater has raised more than just our eyebrows here at Freshwater. The DNR rejected the proposal earlier this year, and recently Dakota County established a one-year moratorium on any such proposal to pump groundwater and send it outside the County.

From 2019 – 2020, our Freshwater team (Jen Kader, Carrie Jennings, and Lila Franklin) worked under contract with Dakota County on a project to update their County Groundwater Plan. Because of that connection, the County staff, the Metropolitan Council, local cities and townships in Dakota County, concerned about groundwater protection, asked for Freshwater’s advice. Carrie has provided extensive input to the Dakota County staff on the Water Train proposal. She also provided input to county commissioners Atkins and Slavik. Carrie also lives in southern Dakota County and is in contact with township supervisors in the area, providing advice and expertise to all these local and regional leaders.

In addition, Freshwater connected with two state legislators who are personally tracking the matter. I am glad to report that the politicians with whom Carrie and our team have connected do not see this subject as a divisive, partisan football. In fact, republicans and democrats agree that protecting Minnesota’s precious groundwater is a high priority – so do we.

When we began our policy work at the Capitol this year, led by Carrie, this issue was at the top of our policy list. We had positive results in early session meetings with legislators and their staff, in hopes of stronger legislation to protect Minnesota groundwater from being kidnapped. Then the COVID-19 outbreak hit and the Legislative Session took on a completely different focus, dropping this issue off the Legislative radar screen.

The fact that this policy issue was sidelined may work to an advantage on this groundwater export matter. There are some tricky policy issues regarding the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution – this will require more time, creativity, and innovation to avoid creating unintended consequences in laws that could be easily overturned by courts. The County’s moratorium will give us more time to work on this issue and build cooperation and support for legislative changes.

Freshwater will continue working to protect Minnesota communities that are planning to use their groundwater in a sustainable way.

– John Linc Stine, executive director