Wastewater treatment

Water flows through grid chambers at the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul in August 2017. Gov. Tim Walz is recommending $293 million in borrowing for water infrastructure projects. (Evan Frost | MPR News 2017)

Gov. Tim Walz is proposing $293 million in borrowing to help improve drinking water and wastewater facilities throughout Minnesota.

The DFL governor announced the plan Friday at the State Capitol. It was the second in a planned four-part rollout of a bonding bill that is expected to reach $2 billion. Republicans have said the number is too big.

Walz said the investment in water-related projects is needed to replace aging infrastructure and meet basic needs in communities.

“This will go toward supporting projects to fix pipes and plants that process the state’s sewage and drinking water,” Walz said. “It will harden existing stormwater infrastructure and build new, more resilient infrastructure to manage increased extreme weather events we see as a result of climate change.”

The long list of projects includes a water and sewer extension for a park in Lake City, Minn., riverbank stabilization in Mankato, Minn., and upgrades to the snow-making system at Giants Ridge.

Most of the projects are for local drinking water and wastewater improvements.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities applauded the announcement.

“The governor’s proposal is great news for greater Minnesota, said CGMC President and Willmar City Council Member Audrey Nelsen. “Hundreds of greater Minnesota communities are currently facing issues with aging water treatment facilities and the need to make expensive upgrades to combat water pollution. The governor and lieutenant governor’s plan to invest $200 million in bonding for clean water infrastructure grants and loans shows that they are committed to helping cities make these necessary improvements — without forcing the entire cost burden on local residents and businesses.

“Water infrastructure funding needs to be the cornerstone of this year’s bonding bill. We have heard from many legislators on both sides of the aisle who recognize that this is a problem that needs to be addressed now. Our communities cannot continue to hold off on repairing and upgrading their facilities. The Legislature should follow Gov. Walz’s lead and include the same $200 million in PFA funding in the final bonding bill.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop said heavy rains linked to climate change have put aging infrastructure at risk, which can lead to wastewater overflows to lakes and rivers.

“We cannot continue at this pace,” Bishop said. “We must invest in climate resiliency.”

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