Sewer fees would raise millions for
By Martiga Lohn
Published in the Duluth News Tribune December 21st, 2004
ST. PAUL - Minnesota has become the land of 10,000 polluted
lakes, rivers and streams, a coalition of environmental,
business and farm groups said Monday while calling for
$80 million in new sewer fees to pay for cleanup.
Homeowners would be charged $3 per month and businesses
would pay between $120 and $600 per year for each sewer
hookup under the "Clean Water Legacy" proposal.
The money would pay for improvements to local sewage treatment
plants and measures to reduce runoff from farms, with
some of the money earmarked to protect pristine bodies
Water pollution threatens to stop factories from expanding
and businesses from opening under a federal law restricting
sewer discharge near contaminated bodies of water that
don't have cleanup plans in place, said Craig Johnson,
a lobbyist with the Minnesota League of Cities. Nine cities
-- including St. Cloud, Princeton and Faribault -- face
lawsuits over the issue.
"There could be an economic-development moratorium
in place on many communities," Johnson said. "We
don't really have communities in Minnesota that aren't
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is considering the proposal and will
say more when he releases a two-year budget Jan. 25, he
said in a written statement. The plan is "a positive
proposal," Pawlenty added.
The coalition wants help from the Legislature and Pawlenty
so the water pollution sewer fee -- similar to charges
for recycling and stormwater management -- would go into
effect statewide, Johnson said.
Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, chairman of the House
Agriculture and Natural Resources Finance Committee, said
he plans to introduce the proposal in the House. His committee
will look at the sewer fee and other sources, including
lottery proceeds, for money, he said. A Senate sponsor
has not stepped forward.
Public beaches on Lake Superior in Duluth, Two Harbors
and Grand Marais closed last summer because of elevated
bacteria counts. An ethanol plant under construction in
Lake Crystal will have to pipe its sewage 12 miles to
meet clean water standards, raising the project's cost,
said Chris Radatz of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation.