Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko) came to Monday’s House Water Division meeting prepared. Sitting in front of him was a plastic bottle containing what appeared to be a cloudy mixture of lemonade and perhaps dirt.
After listening to Jeff Freeman, executive director of the Public Facilities Authority, lay out projects chosen for funding in Gov. Tim Walz’ $300 million package of water quality and infrastructure bonding recommendations, he asked, “Would you drink that water?”
“No,” Freeman said.
Sundin brought the water to express his disappointment that a certain water project wasn’t included. Freeman said the project has been on a priority list for some time and could still get funding through other avenues.
In total, the governor’s bonding recommendation targets replacing aging infrastructure and upgrades to water treatment facilities.
“Every Minnesotan deserves access to clean, safe water,” Walz said in releasing his plan. “Yet aging infrastructure threatens the safety of our drinking water, the vitality of local communities, and the quality of the lakes and rivers we treasure as Minnesotans. This investment will allow communities across the state to repair infrastructure, prepare for severe weather events, clean up existing water contamination, and upgrade facilities to prevent pollution from happening in the first place.”
The Public Facilities Authority provides financing to cities through low-interest loans and grant programs. Walz recommends $200 million in authority programs:
The governor also proposes $15 million to create a pilot program to help communities handle the effects of weather events intensified by climate change.
Katrina Kessler, PCA assistant commissioner for water policy and agriculture, said between 1951 and 2012, total precipitation in the Twin Cities increased 20%, and the past five years are some of the wettest on record. As the climate changes, rainfall is expected to occur less often, but with more intensity, she said, but much of the state’s stormwater infrastructure is aging and undersized.
Other funding proposals in the governor’s package include: