In the far northern reaches of North America, technically still within the continental United States, there is a place known as “Minnesota.” In Minnesota, humans have learned to survive frigid winters and can frequently be found snowblowing their driveways, shoveling strangers out of ditches, and standing on street corners, waiting for school busses full of young children to arrive home in blizzard conditions.
Minnesotans come from a hardy stock of people. They teach their kids to skate and ski before they can crawl, and walk bravely outside, unprotected, when mosquitoes as big as eagles clog the air during the summer. Minnesotans continue to root for the Vikings, even though the team never makes it to the Super Bowl, and will publish a sternly-worded letter to the editor against any coastal American who mistakenly refers to Minnesota as “fly-over country.” Ha! You don’t fly over Minnesota. Any fool knows that you ski, swim, skate, trudge, paddle, run, hike, bike, snowshoe, and march across Minnesota!
The people of Minnesota also don’t take kindly to meddling problems like water pollution. The state has 11,842 lakes and 69,000 miles of rivers and streams, and Minnesotans intend to hunt, fish, boat and swim every one of those water bodies. When scientists discovered that 40% of the lakes, rivers and streams in Minnesota were impaired due to pollutants like mercury, sediment, excess phosphorus, and E. coli, people there didn’t sit around wringing their hands and worrying. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
In many parts of the Minnesota, including most of the Twin Cities metro area, citizens had already banded together to form Watershed Districts – special-purpose, local units of government that levy property taxes in order to prevent flooding and protect water quality. In 2008, Minnesota voters then passed a constitutional amendment dedicating three-eighths of one percent (0.00375) of all sales tax revenue towards projects that protect drinking water sources; protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; preserve arts and cultural heritage; support parks and trails; and protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.
Over the past ten years, Minnesota’s Legacy programs have funded over $759 million in Clean Water projects, above and beyond the work already being done by Watershed Districts, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Watershed Management Organizations (funded by participating cities), counties, non-profit organizations, and citizen groups. Recently, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources approved three new Clean Water grants for partners in Washington County in 2018. These include:
- $135,000 to Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District to complete an alum treatment on Moody Lake in order to reduce internal phosphorus loading by 386 pounds per year (equivalent to 193,000 pounds of algae in the lake!);
- $220,000 to the City of Forest Lake to implement an enhanced street sweeping program that will keep 140 pounds per year of phosphorus out of Forest, Clear, Comfort, Shields, and Sylvan Lakes; and
- $33,440 to Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization to install targeted practices in Stillwater and other river communities that will keep stormwater pollution out of the St. Croix River.
When the going gets tough, you won’t find Minnesotans sitting around wondering what to do. They’re already outside shoveling their neighbors’ driveways or chain-sawing fallen trees. Hardy Minnesotans are proud of their lakes and rivers and aren’t going to let water pollution win. They’re going to plant raingardens, stabilize ravines, restore shorelines, rake leaves and grass out of the street, shovel more and salt less.
Minnesota is swim-through country, and people here intend to keep it that way.