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Great Lakes Article:

Residents might pay to protect waters
By David Krotz
Winona Daily News

There might be a water protection fee in state residents' future.
That is because Minnesota has nearly 2,000 "impaired waters" in the state, polluted in one fashion or another so they cannot perform their designated function.

Legislation authorizing such a water protection tax is being proposed for the next Minnesota legislative session, according to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan who was in Winona on Friday.

She said the funding source for increased water monitoring and clean up efforts has been under consideration since last June.

Corrigan spoke to 50 business leaders about "streamlining" at the MPCA at a luncheon and then conducted a forum focused on agriculture in the afternoon. She was invited to the luncheon by the Winona Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee.

"The good news is, we have a pretty good handle on municipal and industrial discharges," she said. These days, 80 percent of the water pollution is coming from non-point source pollution sources, such as lawn and urban runoff and agricultural runoff that can carry excess nitrogen or fecal coliform bacteria, she said.

It was different 30 years ago when the MPCA was created. Then, most of the water pollution was "point source" from industrial or municipal sources.

With the focus turning to agriculture, a $5 billion industry, and land use practices, "we need to keep working lands working," Corrigan said, but a balance needs to be struck between sound science and change. Eighty percent of state land is privately owned, and land-use plays a key role in water pollution.

The state currently monitors 5 percent of its streams and 12 percent to 14 percent of its lakes. "It's incumbent upon us to increase our monitoring. The governor has recognized we need to improve on that," she said.

Ellsworth Simon, who farms in the Lewiston and Utica areas, addressed Corrigan's comments about "sound science."

"There are so many statistical people involved in this thing who are basically padding their own position," he said, claiming the state was not getting good information. City storm sewer runoff is not being figured into the nitrogen runoff calculations that put more of the blame for nitrogen runoff on farmers, he said.

Kathleen Attwood of Harmony, Minn., and a member of a citizens group fighting a proposed tire burning plant in Preston, Minn. asked if the MPCA had plans to monitor the base line soils in the area of the plant to see the effect of pollution from its smoke stack. Three tons of pollutants including cadmium and zinc will be scattered downwind, she said.

No soil monitoring is planned, Corrigan said of the plant that has received preliminary approval.

Winona Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Della Schmidt said she had first met Corrigan while serving on the state Chamber Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Committee.

The visit will benefit local Chamber of Commerce business members by giving them access to power, she said. "Today, we delivered a direct and immediate benefit to the 50 or 60 members that attended the luncheon. More importantly, we built a relationship," she said.

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