The Department of Interior appropriations bill has been marked up by the US House of Representatives subcommittee, and at this time it does contain level funding for the WRRI program. However, it is anticipated that this bill will not progress to a full vote before the November elections. The Senate has not scheduled a markup on the Interior budget bill. The Senate is moving to reauthorize the WRRA, but there is no progress to date on the House side.
The Minnesota State Legislature adjourned on time in May, and this session included a few changes to the state’s environmental policies. Some of the changes are rollbacks to existing policies that move us further away from sustainable water management. These included some adjustments to WCA, the Wetlands Conservation Act. The replacement schedule was simplified, and some restrictions exempted. Another change was the rollback of the requirement of conservation water pricing throughout the state for public water utilities. The metro area had already instituted conservation pricing as a result of previous legislation, and now metro municipalities have the option of dropping this conservation approach. The rest of the state was to introduce conservation pricing by 2013, but now is not required to do so
There is one positive note – within the legislation passed, there are provisions that encourage integrated land and water planning at watershed scale and boundaries.
A great deal of attention was paid to the issue of invasive species, in particular the issue of Asian carp and their progression up the Mississippi River towards Minnesota waters. The recent finding of a grass carp in the lower St Croix River, and single individuals of grass, silver, and bighead carp near Wabasha in the Mississippi River, prompted $7.5M in funding for a fish barrier to be installed at the Ford Dam in St. Paul (Lock and Dam #1), and also $3.8M in funding of an aquatic invasive species research center at the University of Minnesota.