Bonding: For herring, not for hugging

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This session of the Minnesota Legislature is supposed to be about bonding. By bonding, I don’t mean the “Hug a Ranger” campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the Iron Range. Bonding in this session means the Bonding Bill, a collection of perhaps up to one billion dollars in capital projects that have been proposed.

In these decidedly not huggy times, even the basic purpose of a bonding bill is in dispute. Governor Dayton wants to use the bonding bill to create jobs. Senate Majority Leader David Senjem says the bonding bill is meant to repair and build infrastructure.

I just want to look at one particular project here on the North Shore as an example. It’s a chunk of private land inside the boundaries of Tettegouche State Park, along what they call the “Palisade Coast,” rugged shoreline that connects Shovel Point and the mouth of the Baptism River with dramatic Palisade Head. There’s a 48-acre parcel that has been cared for by a North Shore family for generations, and includes an historic herring fishing operation that could be on the National Register of Historic Places. The landowner wants to sell and wants the parcel to be in the park. Finally, a North Shore state park would feature elements of commercial fishing.

The House version of the bonding contains five million dollars for park acquisition, including in Tettegouche. The Senate version has the same language. Acquisition of land within state park boundaries has been part of the bonding bill for years.

Governor Dayton’s bonding proposal has nothing in it for park land acquisition. These polar opposite proposals on park land acquisition have to be negotiated.

Would acquiring this land and adding it to Tettegouche create good-paying jobs right away? Maybe not. Would it repair and build infrastructure? Totally. In fact, now’s the time to buy land, since prices are low and so are interest rates.

As the session winds down in the next weeks or months, the negotiating will get intense. I really hope a concerned citizen will come to the Capitol to testify in favor of protecting an old North Shore herring operation as part of the bonding bill…regardless of job creation. I’d even give that citizen a hug.


This piece originally appeared on Hindsight 2020, the Minnesota 2020 blog

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