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ST. PAUL, MN – DFL lawmakers in the Minnesota House of Representatives passed an Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture omnibus bill this week on a vote of 69 to 61.
The bill included an amendment authored by Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL—Maplewood) to address shrinking water levels at White Bear Lake and other communities throughout Minnesota.
“I cannot overstate the necessity of getting this problem under control,” said Rep. Fischer. “The people of White Bear Lake are unfortunately all too familiar with the negative consequences of allowing this problem to persist. Communities across Minnesota are beginning to suffer from shrinking water supplies as well. I’m grateful that lawmakers passed my amendment so we can begin taking steps to solve this important issue.”
Rep. Fischer’s amendment gives the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the tools needed to get better control of water being pumped from aquifers.
Right now, the DNR commissioner can designate groundwater management areas and limit total annual water appropriations and uses within a designated area to ensure sustainable use of groundwater that protects ecosystems, water quality, and the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. However, the commissioner is only able to place conservation measures on large water users.
Under Rep. Fischer’s amendment, the DNR commissioner can require permits for all water users, both big and small, within designated groundwater management areas, including those using less than 10,000 per day, or 1,000,000 gallons per year and water supplies serving less than 25 persons for domestic purposes.
“This is about establishing a system that’s fair for all water users,” added Rep. Fischer. “It puts everyone on the same footing whether you’re a big or small user of water. If we don’t start taking these steps now, this will become a much more unmanageable situation over the next decade. It’s a problem that’s been on the backburner for far too long.”
The House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture omnibus bill also provides the DNR with more resources to establish better water monitoring capabilities. It will help provide the data needed to find a solution to address shrinking water supplies. In order to pay for the additional resources, the omnibus bill includes a modest fee increase on heavy users of water. If cities pass the costs on to residential users, an individual water bill would go up about $1-$2 in the first year.
“Right now, there’s a lack of data on water levels across Minnesota,” added Rep. Fischer. “This bill gives us the tools we need to gather that data so we can find a solution.”
The House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture omnibus bill will go to a conference committee once the Minnesota Senate passes their version of the legislation. Differences between the two pieces of legislation will be ironed out before a final package goes to Governor Dayton’s desk.