Diverse Coalition Urges Farm Operators To Do Their Fair Share to Clean Up Rivers

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St. Paul, MN (May 29, 2012) – A unique coalition of Minnesota cities, conservation groups and farm and business representatives today called upon the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to hold farm operators accountable for cleaning up their share of run-off pollution flowing into the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.

Standing in front of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) offices in downtown Saint Paul, the group dumped buckets of run-off sediment onto tarps to demonstrate the 1 to 13 ratio of run-off pollution coming from urban landscapes compared to agricultural run-off that ultimately pollutes Lake Pepin and other downstream rivers and lakes.

Members of the League of Minnesota Cities, Friends of the Mississippi River, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy stood with a Red Wing businessman and Northfield area farmer to ask for the MPCA board to hold farm operators accountable for reducing field run-off pollution.

The event occurred on the last day for public comment on the MPCA plans for cleaning up of the South Metro Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.

“Minnesotans value clean water,” said Steve Morse of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, citing a 2012 statewide poll showing that 84 percent of Minnesotans are concerned about pollution of the Mississippi River.*

Cities near the rivers are required to devise systems and build infrastructure to effectively reduce pollution from wastewater and stormwater, said Dan Ness, mayor of the city of Alexandria and president of the League of Minnesota Cities. “Under the proposed MPCA clean-up plans, Minnesota city property taxpayers will be required to pay for more than $1 billion in initiatives to reduce pollution headed for our rivers while people with, farms, businesses and homes outside cities can choose whether they want to do more.”

“The MPCA goals for cleaning up our rivers are based on years of research and sound science,” added Whitney Clark of the Friends of the Mississippi River. “However, we all need to do our part to clean up our state’s rivers. City taxpayers are paying for their share. Yet there is no requirement for Minnesota farmer operators to take action – and voluntary ag pollution control practices haven’t moved the needle.”

“The cities’ effort will address only 1½ percent of all the sediment flowing into Lake Pepin,” said Randy Neprash of the Minnesota Cities Stormwater Coalition. “We are prepared to do our share of this work, but the ag side of the problem really needs to be addressed if we are going to be successful in achieving clean water.”

Mike McKay of the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance and general manager of St. James Hotel in Red Wing, Minn., stressed that pollution in Minnesota’s rivers threatens local businesses, tourism and the recreation economy.

“No one wants to play in or around dirty water, and downstream hospitality and recreational businesses shouldn’t have to suffer when there are known solutions and best practices out there that are not being implemented,” he said.

Northfield area farmer Dave Legvold, who practices soil and water conservation methods on his land, said: “It’s time for Minnesota agriculture to step up and take a greater role in solving water and soil quality challenges. Farmers, landowners, and all stakeholders need education and collaboration. To make significant progress, farmers and landowners must have specific, de-centralized research that proves on-farm performance and leads to greater profitability. Strictly voluntary programs alone won’t get the job done.  Farmers who adopt conservation practices must be supported through education, incentives, and technical assistance and should not be put at a competitive disadvantage. We need to level the playing field. The MPCA should seize this opportunity to ensure that ag operators do their part to reduce farm runoff pollution.”

In addition to today’s event at MPCA headquarters, representatives for the cities, conservation groups, affected businesses and more than 500 concerned citizens submitted written comments urging the MPCA to use its existing authority to require farm operators to reduce pollution and regularly report pollution reductions.

* Minnesota Environmental Partnership Polling Methodology
From January 9-11, 2012, the bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) and Public Opinion Strategies (POS) completed 500 telephone interviews with registered Minnesota voters. The margin of sampling error is +/-4.4%. See poll results

 

Contacts:
Don Reeder – League of Minnesota Cities – dreeder@lmc.org or 651-215-4031
Steve Morse – Minnesota Environmental Partnership – stevemorse@mepartnershp.org or 651-290-0154
Whitney Clark – Friends of Mississippi River -  wclark@fmr.org or 651-222-2193 x13 or 612-812-7499 -cell

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