After a nearly month-long break, the LCCMR met at Fort Snelling State Park on November 28 to review water RFPs received, build the committee’s upcoming calendar, take in a few presentations and begin getting down to the brass tacks of determining what funding recommendations the committee will make to the legislature next year.
The break gave the LCCMR staff time to upload a volume of information on its web site. You can dive in to the site to see what all the particulars are, from proposal summaries, “invited” proposals and RFPs to an overview of the committee’s funding plans (careful, it could take you hours to rise again).
Perhaps the biggest issue the committee faces – beyond digesting all the information submitted to them for the RFPs – is that they need to determine what monies will be allocated to which projects. With water RFP requests hovering above $62 million, the committee is going to need to determine how to trim this down by nearly a third to stay within their project budget parameters.
Beyond that, portions of the meeting took on an accelerated pace. The committee has a slew of meetings scheduled for December and the pressure is on to keep things moving. Co-chair David Hartwell (an active member in various non-profit organizations and president of Belwin, an educational land preservation organization) revealed that one of the strengths of having citizen’s on the committee is that they are not as accustomed to the protracted discussions that are typical of legislative committees, and instead operate on a speed more akin to what most of us are used to – in other words, let’s discuss and then move on.
Certainly, there is plenty for the committee to discuss — and, in turn, debate. A motion was passed to have re-presentations of particular water issues and a motion was denied to have a re-presentation of land issues. (One of the LCCMR’s directives states “It is the intent of the LCCMR to recommend a large portion of the funding to Land Protection” however, the committee felt that they had a good handle on land issues.)
Hartwell called for a 30-minute time cap on such presentations and Al Berner questioned whether the committee is micromanaging the process by re-visiting the process through follow-up presentations. Nancy Gibson said that the committee’s responsibility is far-reaching. “These people are our partners in getting our jobs done,” she said in regard to asking scientific and environmental experts to return to the committee. Sen. Ellen Anderson and Rep. Jean Wagenius stated that they felt it was necessary to have some re-visitation of the issues due to the volume of proposals received and, more importantly, that neither of them fancy themselves to be scientific experts. While the re-visits to the committee may further slow things down, at least members were willing to acknowledge that they wanted to ensure they were making the best possible recommendations they could to the legislature.
The committee’s grappling with the scientific issues before them became even more evident when Lucinda Johnson of the NRRI gave her presentation regarding climate change. For an issue that appears nearly daily in the mainstream media, it is clear from the committee’s discussion that there are a lot of questions and misinterpretations surrounding the variables of climate change, how it impacts the state and what can be done about it.
Please post your comments regarding the following questions:
After reviewing the RFPs submitted, which do you think are the most deserving of funding from the LCCMR? Why?
Do you feel that climate change is an immediate concern that a committee such as the LCCMR needs to address?
Do you think the state of Minnesota should allocate more funds to environmental conservation and preservation?