Senator Dan Sparks: Legacy bill funds projects in Southern Minnesota

From cleaning up waterways to maintaining and building new parks and trails, protecting bird areas and funding museums across the state, the Legacy Amendment has far-reaching effects. In 2008, Minnesota’s voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment (Legacy Amendment) to the Minnesota Constitution. The amendment’s purpose is to protect drinking water sources; restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.

The Minnesota Senate recently passed this year’s Legacy Bill which totals $652 million over the next two years. This money is invaluable to protecting and preserving the things that make Minnesota a beautiful place to call home.

This year there are several projects that received funding in our district – and in Southern Minnesota. The Shell Rock River Watershed district is a complex system of wetlands, streams and shallow lakes that drain into the Shell Rock River. Among the district’s 11 lakes are Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake which are located in the heart of Freeborn County. Our region has many dedicated partners who have spent the last decade working diligently to clean up the watershed by improving the water quality in the lakes and streams across the county.

I’m proud to announce the Shell Rock River Watershed received $1.7 million in Legacy funding from the Senate’s version of the bill. This money will help the Department of Natural Resources acquire more land within the watershed to help restore and maintain. The work is time consuming – but is fully supported by the community, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a .5 percent local option sales tax that will also go toward cleanup efforts.

I was also successful in adding an amendment to invest $500,000 of Legacy money into fighting the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) forest pest. According to the Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee, EAB is the most destructive forest pest the state has ever encountered, even more destructive than Dutch Elm Disease. The cost of removing ash trees adds up quickly; it costs about $1,000 on average to remove and replace a single ash tree. The Legacy money will assist communities in slowing the spread of EAB and allow cities to slowly transition to a more diverse urban forest.

The Legacy website contains a lot of interesting information about the process of creating a bill every two years, and it even includes a map of projects. Find projects funded in previous years that are close to home by visiting the site:

The Senate Legacy bill was passed last week, and now heads to conference committee with the House to hash out any remaining differences between the bills. The Legacy bill remains largely uncontroversial – and is a great source of funding to help preserve Minnesota’s many natural resources.

After the Legacy debate, I was happy to welcome Freeborn County Commissioner Mike Lee and his wife, Renee, to the capitol. The Senate was still in session, so I stepped off the floor and we discussed many issues that are important to Freeborn County including transportation funding and County Program Aid. I encourage everyone to visit the capitol and my office when they are in.


This column was first published in the Albert Lea Tribune.