ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Andover landfill cleanup

In mid-February, a bill passed and signed into law provides $10.3 million to begin cleanup of the state’s most polluted landfill. The closed Waste Disposal Engineering (WDE) landfill in Andover ranks at the top of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s list in terms of hazard and risks to public health and has been the agency’s highest cleanup priority among the state’s 100 closed landfills. The landfill has been releasing various volatile organic compounds, metals, and other substances into groundwater, although a number of mitigation measures have been put into place to reduce impacts to the surrounding area, providing protection to the community’s drinking water and a nearby creek. The enacted legislation will allow cleanup to begin later this year. (SF 611)

Chronic Wasting Disease response

Environmental committees have devoted substantial time to considering the threat posed by Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) to Minnesota’s white-tail deer population. The disease is a highly contagious, neurodegenerative disease discovered in the late 1960s, now found in 25 states and three Canadian provinces. In Minnesota, more than 30 wild deer have tested positive for CWD over the past two years, most found in southeastern Minnesota. Since 2002, the disease has been discovered in eight elk and deer farms in the state. Minnesota wildlife officials are working hard to slow the spread of CWD among wild deer in the state’s southeastern counties, trying to keep it confined to a few captive deer farms and relatively small areas of wild deer habitat.

A range of measures to combat CWD have been discussed by environmental committees, including stepped up surveillance and monitoring, facilitation of a rapid and reliable diagnostic test using samples from live deer to facilitate early detection, an “adopt-a-dumpster” program for safe disposal of deer carcasses in areas where CWD has been detected, new requirements for Cervidae farms, and other measures. The hope is to prevent and slow down the spread of this deadly disease with aggressive efforts on a variety of fronts. (SF 2314, SF 1258)

Reeling in new anglers

A new grant program administered by the Department of Natural Resource would provide funds to set up high school fishing leagues. Under the proposal, the DNR would develop basic angling curriculum and establish a grant program focused on the development and expansion of these leagues. Advocates say hunting and fishing license sales and participation rates have been falling both nationally and statewide for years. Last year, Minnesota license sales were at their lowest level since 1976. This proposal is intended to promote youth fishing recruitment, thus sustaining the next generation of anglers. (SF 2314)

Outdoor sports and firearms safety

Expanding school outdoor sports and teaching firearms safety training at school would help get kids off their screens and into the outdoors. A new DNR grant program would allow school districts to apply for funds to expand their physical education curricula, provided the activities are consistent with required state standards for physical education. Activities could include archery, trap shooting, hunting, angling, and firearms safety training in physical education classes taught in Minnesota schools. The hope is to encourage young people to develop a love for the outdoors and outdoor sports that can last a lifetime. (SF 2314)

Two-line fishing

A proposal authorizes anglers to take fish using two lines during the open water season, provided a second-line endorsement is purchased for $5. Proceeds for the $5 second line endorsement would be spent on walleye stocking. Under current law, Minnesota allows one line per fishing license, except two lines are allowed for ice fishing and on the Mississippi River and Lake Superior. Under this proposal, two-line fishing would not be allowed on specially-regulated waters, such as trout streams and lakes. Minnesota’s fishing rules to allow one line have been in place since 1920, and past efforts to allow more lines have not been successful. (SF 2314)

Clean Water Legacy Act

An overhaul of the Clean Water Legacy Act makes updates and improvements to the water laws and local water management programs to achieve coordinated watershed management changes, moving the state more efficiently toward “one watershed, one plan.” (SF 2314)

MPCA small business loan program

This proposal modernizes the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s small business loan program, expanding eligibility and bringing loan conditions up to date by lowering allowable interest rates and increasing the maximum loan amount. (SF 2314)

Wild Rice Stewardship Council

A Wild Rice Stewardship Council is created to “foster leadership, collaboration, coordination, and communication among state and tribal government bodies and wild rice stakeholders.” Under the proposal, 13 members with varied designated interests are appointed by the Governor, with initial appointments to include members of the Governor’s Task Force on wild rice established in 2018 by Governor Dayton’s executive order. The DNR and MPCA commissioners appoint one member each, and the Senate and House of Representatives each appoint two members. The council is tasked with a number of duties, including reviewing and considering the recommendations of the Governor’s task force on wild rice, the 2018 tribal wild rice task force report, recommending a comprehensive statewide management plan for wild rice, and reporting and making biennial recommendations on the health of wild rice. (SF 2314)

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