ST. PAUL - Cleaning up Minnesota’s water takes more than new laws, Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday while proclaiming this as Water Action Week.
Ultimately, he said, it will take a new ethic to make needed changes to prevent pollution.
“I am hoping that this ethic will become such that anyone (not showing that ethic) will stand out as an exemption and not the norm,” Dayton said.
On the other hand, the governor added: “James Madison said, ‘If men were angels, government would not be necessary.’”
The governor plans events every day this week to promote the need to clean the state’s water, and he returns to the theme in the summer when he plans to visit all 87 Minnesota counties.
After Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said that a Twin Cities organization plans to promote the Super Bowl in Minneapolis for a year in advance, he said something similar is needed for water quality.
“This is more important than the Super Bowl,” Dayton said.
Dayton is seeking money to help communities around rural Minnesota treat water so it is drinkable.
The governor could sign his signature clean-water bill this week as it has progressed though the Legislature. It updates a law passed last year to require a buffer strip, or an alternative, between cropland and water, and has faced a rough time.
“It generated a lot of misunderstanding around the state,” Dayton said. “Some of that has subsided.”
Buffers next to public waters must be in place by late 2017, while those along public ditches must be ready a year later.
“We need that clean water bill to pass,” Dayton said.
Pollution Control Commissioner John Linc Stine said that 98 percent of water that flows out of the state fell in Minnesota. “We don’t look upstream to anyone.”
He said that 60 percent of the state’s watersheds are in good shape, especially in north-central and northeastern Minnesota. The worst water is in southwestern Minnesota.
Many pollution issues, Stine said, “come from actions on the land .... altering our landscape.” He mentioned things such as phosphorus, one of many chemicals that flow off of cropland and other places into water.
Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said that not only does cleaning the water help the environment. Work on it is “among the greatest public health improvements” over the years.