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Coalition: MN Needs Bonding Bill for Water Infrastructure

The federal Environmental Protection Agency says Minnesota needs to spend more than $7 billion over the next 20 years in water infrastructure upgrades to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. (Adobe Stock)
The federal Environmental Protection Agency says Minnesota needs to spend more than $7 billion over the next 20 years in water infrastructure upgrades to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. (Adobe Stock)
May 12, 2020

TWO HARBORS, Minn. -- More than two dozen business, labor and environmental groups have joined elected leaders in calling for new spending to upgrade Minnesota's water infrastructure. The "Fix the Pipes" coalition wants the state Legislature to approve at least $300 million in bonding to fund projects across the state.

Republican Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester is backing the coalition. He said in Greater Minnesota, many towns simply lack the revenue to repair or replace things such as wastewater treatment plants.

"We've got a lot of communities full of retired people, Social Security, they don't have a lot of tax base, and yet are faced with $20 million, $30 million, $40 million investment in their wastewater treatment plants," Senjem said. "Where are they going to go?"

The Legislature must adjourn its current session by next Monday, May 18. But supporters say the bonding bill could be considered in a special session.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has said his Republican caucus would block a bonding bill until DFL Gov. Tim Walz gives up his peacetime emergency powers during the state's response to the pandemic. Legislative rules require a three-fifths majority for approval of a bonding package.

Senjem said his fellow Republicans, along with Democrats from across the aisle, need to put aside any partisanship when it comes to bonding.

Luke Heikkila is superintendent of the wastewater treatment plant in Two Harbors. He said the current facility is 65 years old and falls short of meeting clean-water standards.

"Cities like Two Harbors aren't looking for a handout. We are willing to pay our fair share," Heikklia said. "With a population so small, we absolutely need help from the state to make this reality."

Coalition members say these public construction projects would put more than 7,000 people to work at a time when many Minnesotans have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN