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State Representative Peter Fischer

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100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
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For more information contact: Matt Roznowski 651-296-8875

Posted: May 16 2014 4:35PM
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Rep. Fischer, Sen. Wiger announce new tools to restore White Bear Lake, prevent water shortages


ST. PAUL, MN – Today, State Representative Peter Fischer (DFL – Maplewood) and Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL – Maplewood) announced new tools and resources to restore the water level at White Bear Lake and prevent water shortages in the northeast metro region.

The new measures to ensure a sustainable supply of water are part of a supplemental budget package expected to win approval from both the House and Senate this afternoon.

“The declining water level at White Bear Lake has serious consequences for our region’s economic health right now and into the future,” said Fischer and Wiger in a joint statement. “We are grateful for the opportunity to develop solutions that benefit our constituents and our communities. The new tools and resources in the supplemental budget to ensure water sustainability are major steps in the right direction that build on the progress we made last year.”

Solving the regional water shortage is a top legislative priority for Fischer and Wiger. During the interim, they convened regular meetings with a broad coalition of stakeholders including mayors, county commissioners, the Metropolitan Council, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), local government officials and the business community to discuss White Bear Lake and the region’s groundwater management strategy. Both lawmakers view broad-based collaboration as a key ingredient to finding a solution that is fair and beneficial to all.

"This legislation will add resources to address the aquifer issues on a regional basis to ensure we protect our drinking water and to assist in finding solutions for White Bear Lake and other bodies of water that have been adversely affected by the declining aquifer,” said White Bear Lake Mayor Jo Emerson.

"Maintaining the historical levels of White Bear Lake are critical for recreational use, real estate values regionally, and the property tax base,” said Terry Koves, President of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce. “It is clear from all the science that White Bear Lake is a tank for the aquifer below it. We appreciate the work of Sen. Wiger and Rep. Fischer in advancing legislation to restore the lake and responsible water use."

The supplemental budget invests $950,000 to make progress on water sustainability as follows:

  • $400,000 to develop a plan in collaboration with the DNR commissioner for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area (NEMGMA) to address regional water supply and sustainability issues.
     
  • $100,000 to collaborate with the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and Pollution Control Agency (PCA) to investigate the feasibility of collecting and treating storm water in the NEMGMA to enhance surface water and groundwater recharge.
     
  • $50,000 to partner with the University of Minnesota’s Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) to identify opportunities for industrial water users to reduce or reuse their water consumption within the NEMGMA.
     
  • $150,000 to collaborate with the Minnesota Department of Health and local governments in the NEMGMA to indentify strategies that would contribute to groundwater recharge, surface water enhancement and wellhead protection.
     
  • $100,000 for public works professionals and local governments to development landscaping best practices that keep water on the land in areas such as rain gardens within the NEMGMA.
     
  • $150,000 for wetland restoration and groundwater recharge in the NEMGMA.

The supplemental budget also establishes a bipartisan, bicameral Legislative Water Commission that will regularly meet to review data and reports from state agencies and make policy recommendations to the entire Legislature. The Commission will consist of six members from each legislative body. Three members from each body must be from the majority caucus and three members from each body must be from the minority caucus. The Commission is allowed to appoint staff and consultants as necessary.

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill authored by Rep. Fischer creating the Commission last year, with Senator Wiger authoring the bill in the Senate. The Commission’s inclusion in the supplemental budget moves it one step closer to being enacted into state law.

In addition, Senator Wiger and Rep. Fischer authored the groundwater management sustainability initiatives included in the supplemental budget. These initiatives toughen enforcement of water permits within groundwater management areas by taking the following steps:

  • Establishes a minimum penalty of $150 a month for failing to pay water use permit fees (DNR allowed to waive water use permit fees for installations that use storm runoff from impervious surfaces).
     
  • Requires water users to preserve and make records of water use available for seven years.
     
  • Allows the DNR to assess a penalty of the greater of $300 or two percent of the water use processing fee for noncompliant reporting incidents (DNR allowed to terminate permit for water users other than a municipal water supplier with three or more noncompliant reporting incidents in a five-year period).
     
  • Authorizes the DNR to issue administrative penalty orders for violations of water use permit and public waters work permit statutes and rules. The penalty amount is based on the level of harm and deviation from compliance of the violation. The levels and maximum amounts are:

    -Minor potential for harm and deviation, up to $1,000;

    -Moderate potential for harm and deviation, up to $10,000; and

    -Severe potential for harm and deviation, up to $20,000.

In determining the amount of the penalty, the DNR must consider the gravity of the violation; the history of violations; the number of violations; the economic benefit gained by the person; and other factors as justice may require. For second and subsequent violations, the DNR must also consider the similarity with past violations; the time elapsed since the last violation; the number of previous violations; and the response of the person to the most recent violation.

The 2014 supplemental budget builds on the progress made during the 2013 Legislative Session, when state lawmakers and the Governor invested $1.6 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and $6 million in FY 2015 for water sustainability improvements.

These funds allow for additional ground and surface water analysis. They also increase the reimbursement rate paid to local units of government for monitoring well data, improving technology for surface water monitoring, giving out water use permits and analyzing technical data.

Additionally, the funds allow for the monitoring of surface water in select areas to determine the relationship between aquifers, springs, small tributaries and other wetlands.

Below is a comprehensive timeline highlighting White Bear Lake Area water sustainability initiatives spearheaded by Rep. Fischer and Sen. Wiger:

-Metropolitan Council draft feasibility assessment of water supply in the Northeast Metro (due June 2014)

-Establish the Legislative Water Commission (funding available beginning July 1, 2014)

-Metropolitan Council final feasibility assessment of water supply in the Northeast Metro (due October 2014)

-Increase enforcement of water use permits (begins January 1, 2015)

-Investigate collection and treatment of storm water to enhance surface water and groundwater recharge (Board of Water and Soil Resources and Pollution Control Agency) (funding available through June 30, 2015)

-Based on the outcomes of the Metropolitan Council’s feasibility assessment due in October 2014, develop a plan in consultation with the DNR Commissioner and the local water supply work group to address regional water supply and sustainability, including enhancing surface waters (funding available through June 30, 2015)

-Investigate industrial water use, conservation and reuse (University of Minnesota) (funding available through June 30, 2015)

-Develop landscaping best practices (funding available through June 30, 2015)

-United States Geological Survey study on pumping analysis and effects on lake levels (scheduled to be completed in September 2016)

-Identify strategies helping groundwater recharge and surface water enhancement (funding available through June 30, 2017)

 -Develop wetland restoration practices for groundwater recharge (funding available through June 30, 2017)

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