Groups Call on Governor to Support Transformational Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Funding – Austin Daily Herald

As cities across the state face billions of dollars in costs to upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure to replace aging equipment and comply with new regulations, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities ( CGMC), Conservation Minnesota, IUOE Local 49, and LIUNA Minnesota an North Dakota held a press conference earlier this week calling on the state to play a bigger role in addressing the clean water funding crisis in the Minnesota.

“The organizations gathered here today represent a coalition of local governments, environmental advocates and workers who have come together to urge the Legislative Assembly to seize the moment and pass an ambitious and transformational infrastructure funding package. water and wastewater,” said Bradley, executive director of CGMC. Peterson at a press conference on Wednesday.

Peterson and other leaders gathered on Capitol Hill to call on the Legislature to support two bills aimed at addressing the massive spending burdening communities across the state to repair aging water treatment infrastructure. water and map and replace lead pipes.

The first bill, HF3858/SF3545 drafted by Rep. Liz Boldon (DFL-Rochester) and Sen. Andrew Lang (R-Olivia), allocates $299 million in state bonding for administered grant and loan programs by the Public Facilities Authority (PFA).

“We know that pollutants like nitrates, PFASs and sulfates are increasingly difficult for water and wastewater operators to manage,” said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota. “This increased funding can ensure that communities have clean water to drink; and the lakes, rivers and streams Minnesotans love are safe for swimming and fishing.

More than 200 cities are currently planning upcoming water and wastewater infrastructure projects, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) estimates it will cost the city $12.3 billion. statewide over the next 20 years to meet the needs. The growing need equates to more cities vying for the state’s limited pool of dollars.

Austin is one such community and is to undertake a project estimated to cost $86.2 million. Without state aid, local taxpayers will have to bear the entire cost. From 2018 to 2023, Austin residents will have seen their wastewater rates increase by 75%.

“The proposed legislation would help Minnesota cities, like Austin, deal with costly infrastructure projects that desperately need state support,” Austin Mayor Steve King said.

“Cities like Austin play a vital role in ensuring Minnesota’s water is clean through our wastewater, stormwater and drinking water systems,” King said. “As these systems age and new regulations are added, it becomes very costly for our cities, which is why we need legislation like this to help cities build and modernize our water infrastructure.

Because aging water and wastewater infrastructure is an ongoing statewide crisis, the bill also requests $80 million per biennium from the General Fund, $75 million $5 million for the Point Source Implementation Grant Program and $5 million per biennium for Technical Assistance Grants.

The second bill the group has asked the legislature to pass, HF4115/SFXXX drafted by Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-Minneapolis) and Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester), seeks to map and replace all lead residential service lines by 2032 and provide the funding to make this possible. The bill would provide $10 million in grants to cities to map and inventory major service lines across Minnesota and $30 million annually for 10 years to replace those lines.

“For decades, we’ve known that thousands of Minnesota homes have lead pipes that provide clean drinking water to their homes,” said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota. “It is a threat to the health and development of children living in these homes.”

According to a recent report from the Minnesota Department of Health, an estimated 100,000 to 260,000 lead pipes currently provide drinking water to homes in Minnesota. Although federal resources are available to fund mapping and replacement costs, they will not be sufficient to cover the total cost. Additionally, some federal resources are only available as loans, which many communities and residents cannot afford.

“As we know, there is no safe level of lead in drinking water,” Peterson said. “There is no excuse, given the resources available, for allowing our most basic infrastructure to continue to be a health hazard to the residents of our state.”

These projects will also boost local economies through the creation of thousands of construction jobs across the state. A study by the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters estimates that replacing lead service lines in Minnesota will create approximately 2,400 jobs per year over 10 years.

“Transformational investment in our water infrastructure will increase career opportunities and training for local workers and create momentum to bring more women, veterans and people of color into the construction industry,” said Joel Smith, president and chief commercial officer of LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota. . “LIUNA members are skilled in lead service line replacements, and we are proud to work to help our own communities meet drinking water needs and have worked on lead line replacements statewide. . Our members will be happy to use their skills to do this work and help protect the water and health of our communities, lakes and rivers.

In addition to their two main bills, the group called for the state to include surety funding for stormwater infrastructure, public infrastructure improvements to mitigate inflows and seepages, and municipal projects. individual sources of water and wastewater not adequately treated by current grant and loan programs.

Without meaningful state investment, Minnesota’s water systems will continue to degrade, increasing the financial burden on communities, while jeopardizing our health and water resources. With a projected surplus of $9.3 billion, now is the time to make a transformational investment in our water infrastructure.

As Conservation Minnesota Executive Director Paul Austin said, “What could be more important than having clean, safe water? »

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