Pawlenty pledges to improve water
By Dennis Lien
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Saying Minnesota lakes and rivers are
increasingly stressed from overdevelopment, runoff and
drinking water demands, Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday pledged
to come to their rescue.
"As a governor who does not believe we can afford
to let the state slip further down the slope of silt,
sewage and sludge, I'm here today to talk about a renewed
statewide commitment to clean, quality water in the state
of Minnesota,'' Pawlenty told several hundred people at
a conference to improve the quality of the state's lakes
Minnesota, he said, will coordinate resources and refocus
water-protection efforts, work with local conservation
groups, launch pilot projects on specific watersheds,
seek more money for agricultural buffers, and cut pollution
into the Mississippi River.
It was at least the second time Pawlenty has staked out
a major water-quality position. Last spring, he told legislators
to back off trying to weaken state wetlands laws.
In his speech, Pawlenty was short on many specifics,
such as cost. But he outlined several initiatives, and,
with Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan,
emphasized the time had come for action, not study.
He announced the creation of a "clean water cabinet,''
made up of the heads of the departments of Natural Resources,
Agriculture and Health; the Pollution Control Agency and
the Board of Water and Soil Resources to work on common
solutions. A Pawlenty aide, Bob Schroeder, will chair
He said his administration will identify watersheds in
four areas of the state - the Red River valley, the Twin
Cities, the Brainerd lakes area, and southeastern Minnesota
- for cleanups.
Rivers such as the Cannon, Zumbro and Root in southeastern
Minnesota, for example, should be swimmable within a decade,
he said. In 1992, former Gov. Arne Carlson offered a similar
goal for the Minnesota River.
"How do we achieve all of these things?'' Pawlenty
asked. "By bringing together local partners, aligning
and maximizing federal and state resources, and working
together to get the job done.''
His administration, he said, is working on a proposal
to retire more acres of marginal agricultural land to
reduce runoff into rivers and lakes. About 100,000 acres
already have been protected in the Minnesota River basin
under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
In addition to pledging to cut untreated sewage and fecal
coliform runoff into the Mississippi River, Pawlenty said
the DNR will increase access to the river by improving
beaches and buying more land for new access points.
"It would be a crime if we didn't push hard to make
this special river the water resource we want it to be
for Minnesota,'' he said.
Those efforts, however, shouldn't come at the expense
of land productivity, Pawlenty emphasized.
Noting that water-quality issues were largely ignored
in the recent legislative session, Rep. Jean Wagenius,
DFL-Minneapolis, said she was heartened by Pawlenty's
"We haven't heard the specifics, but if we are now
going to concentrate on it, that's good news,'' Wagenius
Ron Kroese, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental
Partnership, a coalition of environmental groups that
has advocated various water-protection measures the past
two legislative sessions, also was encouraged.
"I would call it a clear, clarifying vision of what
needs to be done to protect our waters,'' Kroese said.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty pledged to:
Form a "cabinet" to solve common water-quality
Identify watersheds in four areas for coordinated cleanups.
Seek federal approval and state bonding money to protect
erosion-prone crop land.
Cut sewage-related pollution into the Mississippi River.