For all the growing pains the LCCMR experienced in the past year, the notion of creating committees that are a hybrid of citizens and elected representatives to address environmental issues has expanded to the newly formed Clean Water Council (CWC).
While the CWC is a new entity, it isn’t the first time a group of citizens and representatives have banded together to address water issues in the state. The original Clean Water Legacy proposal was drafted more than three years ago by a group known as the Group of 16 or G16 – a group not unlike the CWC in that it pulled together representatives from businesses, government, agriculture and conservation groups. The Minnesota Environmental Initiative released an overview of the G16’s efforts in reaching consensus among disparate groups to address the state’s water issues.
Sen. Satveer Chaudhary is a big proponent of this approach, and at the CWC’s inaugural meeting March 19 he said the initial reaction to creating such a configuration for an LCCMR committee was met with disdain. However, Sen. Chaudray went on to emphasize that such committees are beneficial in ensuring that special interests don’t override larger, broader issues in regard to the state’s environmental preservation efforts.
The CWC was created by the legislature in 2006 to address implementation issues of the Clean Water Legacy Act and, like the LCCMR, will make funding recommendations. The main difference between the two committees is that the CWC will make its recommendations to the Governor rather than the legislature and, the CWC trumps the LCCMR in sheer numbers – there are 17 members on the LCCMR but the CWC boasts 23. (There are 19 Governor-appointed members and representatives from the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.) Operating under the initiatives put forth in the Clean Water Legacy Act, $24.95 million is allocated to fund the clean water initiatives that impact every water source in the state.
Such measures derive from the federal Clean Water Act, but with Minnesota’s vast water resources, and the phenomenal amount of impaired waters in the state, a statewide initiative to protect our waters is necessary. Testing of impaired waters has yet to reach 20 percent of the state’s waters and the price tag for such testing is hefty: estimated to be at least $3 billion in the next decade.
Sen. Chaudray also emphasized that while much attention has been paid to clean-up efforts involving the state’s lakes, rivers and streams, very little attention has been paid to “the consumer – and it seems to me that this should be the first area of testing, the consumability of water.”
Clean Water Action state director Marie Zellar implored the committee to remember that the term “legacy” in the act must be taken seriously: “It was named the Clean Water Legacy Act for a reason,” she said adding that we must address impaired water issues now to ensure their quality for future generations.
The CWC named environmental attorney Louis Smith and Steven Pedersen as interim co-chairs. 2007 legislative committee chairs include Chaudhary, Rep. Jean Wagenius, Rep. Kent Eken and Sen. Ellen Anderson. The CWC plans to meet the third Monday of each month and the PCA plans on creating a web page on its site dedicated to the CWC.
Last but not least: Here’s a tip to attendees — parking is a hassle around the Freeman Building, so it’s advised to get a $4 day-long parking permits from the Plant Management office, in the Administration Building at 50 Sherburne Avenue, Room G-10. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck plugging meters where a quarter only buys you 10 minutes of parking time.