For the 2nd straight year, a major victory for the Clean Water Fund

A couple of paddlers in a canoe on the Mississippi River, seen from high above. The shore is lined with golden and red trees.

The Clean Water Fund is pivotal to a clean, healthy Mississippi River — and its hundreds of tributaries in Minnesota. (Photo by David Wheaton)

Last session, in a first for lawmakers, the Legislature included all of the Clean Water Council’s biennial recommendations for how the state should invest $315.3 million in funding over two years. We hoped that would continue in 2024.

We're happy to report it did.

This session, there was an additional $25.4 million in supplemental Clean Water Fund dollars available, leading the Clean Water Council to offer supplemental Clean Water Fund recommendations. Those recommendations included funding for 14 projects FMR strongly supports, including: 

  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA): Nitrate in Groundwater ($1 million) and AgBMP Loan Program ($3.402 million)
  • Minnesota Department of Health (MDH): Drinking Water Contaminants of Emerging Concern ($384,000) and Southeast Minnesota Nitrate Response ($2.79 million)
  • Department of Natural Resources (DNR): Fish Contamination Assessment ($90,000).
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA): River and Lake Monitoring and Assessment ($326,000), Enhanced County Inspection/SSTS Corrective Actions ($2 million), Chloride Reduction Grants ($1 million) and Continuous Nitrate Sensor Network ($2 million)
  • Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative LAMP match ($1 million), Critical Shoreland Protection Easements ($4 million), Working Land and Floodplain Easements ($4.434 million) and Clean Water Partners Legacy small grants ($2 million)
  • The University of Minnesota: Stormwater BMP Performance Evaluation & Technology Transfer ($1 million)

How the bills fared

The House played it straight.

They included the council’s recommendations in their entirety in their supplemental Legacy Bill (HF 4124) authored by Rep. Leon Lillie and Rep. Her, Rep. Burkel and Rep. Smith.

The Senate took a different path. Their Supplemental Legacy Bill (SF 5116) modified nine of the Council’s 14 recommendations — including high-priority public health initiatives. The bill also included more than $6 million in appropriations (about 24% of the total available surplus) that were not included in the council’s recommendations.

In response, FMR sent a letter to the committee outlining some of our specific concerns. River Guardian advocates also weighed in, sending messages to decision-makers urging them to honor the council's recommendations.

A successful resolution

Since the House and Senate had different versions of the bill, lawmakers from both chambers gathered to negotiate the final bill.

Those negotiations, we are thrilled to say, were successful! The final agreement included the Clean Water Council’s recommendations — without significant changes. This marks an important milestone for the Clean Water Fund: to consecutive legislative sessions where lawmakers honored the council's recommendations.

Thank you to all the River Guardians who took time to weigh in to help protect this important environmental fund. We look forward to making it three in a row next year. 

Previous updates

April 30: Our concerns in the latest Senate proposal

The Minnesota Minnesota Senate Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee recently advanced its Legacy Budget Omnibus Bill. The bill includes $25.4 million in supplemental Clean Water Fund appropriations. 

FMR has some concerns with the Clean Water Fund portion of the bill as it is currently constructed, because it departs from the council’s recommendations in a manner that we do not support. Of the council’s 14 recommendations, the amendment modifies nine of them — including high-priority public health initiatives. 

The bill also includes more than $6 million in appropriations (that's about 24% of the total available surplus) that were not included in the council’s recommendations. We are concerned that the bill partially funds new items by redirecting funding away from high-priority drinking water protection initiatives recommended by the Council.

We sent a letter to the committee, outlining some of our specific concerns. You can read that letter here.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of time for lawmakers to pass a bill that sticks to the Clean Water Council's revised recommendations (which you can read about below, in our March 20 update). 

Learn more about the Clean Water Fund, the Clean Water Council, and the importance of this source of funding.

What about the House version of the bill? 

The Minnesota House Legacy Committee released its draft Legacy Budget Omnibus Bill(link is external) on Monday, April 15. 

Unlike the Senate's version, with its dramatic departures from the Council’s recommendations, FMR and our clean-water allies are very pleased to see proposed language that fundamentally reflects the Clean Water Council’s supplemental Clean Water Fund recommendations.

We're expecting some movement on the legacy bill as soon as this week, so stay tuned.

March 20: Revised Clean Water Fund recommendations earn NGO support

At their March 18 meeting, Minnesota’s Clean Water Council revealed revised recommendations for spending the $25.426 million surplus in the Clean Water Fund. Below, read the letter of support we submitted to the Minnesota Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee

Letter of support

March 18th, 2024
Re: Supplemental Clean Water Fund recommendations 

Chair Hawj and committee members, 

As you know, Minnesotans voted to adopt the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008. One-third of the revenue from the amendment is allocated to the Clean Water Fund. The State’s recently revised budget forecast shows a total surplus in the Clean Water Fund of $25.426 million. 

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our appreciation for the work of the Clean Water Council in preparing supplemental Clean Water Fund recommendations that direct the surplus toward numerous initiatives we support, including: 

  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA): Nitrate in Groundwater ($1.0 million) and AgBMP Loan Program ($3.402 million). 
  • Minnesota Department of Health (MDH): Drinking Water Contaminants of Emerging Concern ($384,000) and Southeast Minnesota Nitrate Response ($2.79 million). 
  • Department of Natural Resources (DNR): Fish Contamination Assessment ($90,000). 
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA): River and Lake Monitoring and Assessment ($326,000), Enhanced County Inspection/SSTS Corrective Actions ($2.0 million), Chloride Reduction Grants ($1.0 million) and Continuous Nitrate Sensor Network ($2.0 million). 
  • Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative LAMP match ($1.0 million), Critical Shoreland Protection Easements ($4.0 million), Working Land and Floodplain Easements ($4.434 million) and Clean Water Partners Legacy small grants ($2.0 million). 
  • The University of Minnesota: Stormwater BMP Performance Evaluation & Technology Transfer ($1.0 million). 

We are also pleased to see that the recommendations do not include funding for private well measures that had raised constitutional concerns. Such investments, which are critical for protecting public health, are best made through traditional means, as reflected by the Governor's 2024‐25 Supplemental Budget Recommendations

We encourage you to advance a 2024 Legacy Bill that reflects the Council’s recommendations.

Sincerely, 

Friends of the Mississippi River
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy 
Conservation Minnesota
Northern Waters Land Trust
CURE
Land Stewardship Project 
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Well Owners Organization 

Read more about the Clean Water Fund, the Clean Water Council, and the importance of this source of funding.

March 6: Revised state budget forecast boosts Clean Water Fund

The State of Minnesota recently revised its budget and economic outlook upward, projecting a $3.715 billion surplus (an increase of $1.324 billion compared to November projections). That turned out to be good news for the state’s Clean Water Fund as well.

The Clean Water Fund previously showed a surplus of just over $18 million. The most recent state budget forecast means there is an additional $7.37 million in funds available. As a result, the total surplus in the Clean Water Fund is now up to $25.4 million.

FMR looks forward to working with legislators and the Clean Water Council to ensure these funds are used to help address Minnesota’s most pressing water quality challenges and opportunities.

Read more about the Clean Water Fund, the Clean Water Council, and the importance of this source of funding.

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