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Water quality: Attention given means progress made

The bad news in a report about water quality in Minnesota was that 56% of state waters are impaired. The good news was we’re doing something about it.

Minnesotans shouldn’t be satisfied with the 56 percent impairment rate in the “land of sky blue waters.” No amount of development or progress is worth the cost of polluted water.

But the recent report marks a milestone of sorts: Minnesota government has been diligent about studying our waters and acting on water quality. After 10 years, the MPCA has completed its study of every watershed in Minnesota. And some cleanup efforts have been implemented and some waters have been taken off the list.

The other mostly good news is that Republicans and Democrats have long been supporters of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, an agency that was formed in part due to a horrendous soybean oil spill in the Minnesota River at Mankato back in the 1960s.

Now it’s time to get to work on the solutions.

Some plans for improving and restoring water quality are ready to be implemented. The Blue Earth River watershed plan was shared with the public at an open house this summer and public comments were taken through late September. Those plans will then be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.

To their credit, landowners and farmers have implemented land management practices on their own like planting cover crops between seasons or grasses on land they choose to idle through state and federal cost sharing programs.

Cities like Mankato have lobbied the Legislature for funding that would allow the creation of a large holding pond to slow runoff. Experts say there are also opportunities to do that in farm country without seriously impacting agriculture.

When the EPA approves the final cleanup strategy, there will be no choice. The cleanup is mandated by law.

These cleanup plans will be costly. All taxpayers, not just farmers, will need to make these investments in clean water. We urge collaboration and cooperation among farmers, businesses and government to make more of Minnesota the “land of sky blue waters.”

— The Free Press of Mankato

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