The Legacy Amendment, one of Minnesota’s most celebrated and collaborative achievements, has faced serious threats in the Minnesota Legislature this session. As you may recall, the Legacy Amendment was a bipartisan vote to change the Minnesota Constitution to add 3/8ths of a percent onto our sales tax to fund projects pertaining to arts and cultural heritage, outdoor heritage, parks and trails, environmental improvement, and of course, clean water improvement. Legacy funds are intended to be an additive benefit, not meant to replace regular operations or staff costs. This legislative session, that potential replacement of Legacy funds for regular budgets is exactly what we are facing, with the net result being an overall decrease in available funds for crucial water projects. In order to get an idea of how these funds are used and what their impact can be, let’s take a look at notable projects in the East Metro.
Remember Maplewood Mall’s stormwater management success story? Thanks to Legacy funding, the Maplewood Mall complex captures and filters 20 million gallons of stormwater runoff every year, resulting in a 60% reduction of phosphorus and 90% reduction of sediment entering into the watershed. Phase II of this project was supported by a $500,000 Clean Water Fund grant; Phase IV was supported by a $625,000 Clean Water Fund grant. Clean Water Fund grants are Legacy Amendment funds approved of by the Clean Water Council for use on crucial water projects.
We also know about the water quality improvement at Brown’s Creek, which involved planting 12,000 native plants and adding more than two acres of native buffer along the Brown’s Creek stream bank. This deepened and cooled the stream, as well as reduced shoreline sediment contamination, making it more habitable to trout. This project cost $220,000 to complete, with most of the funds coming from the Legacy Amendment.
Additionally, farther north in Chisago Lake Township, Moody Lake and Bone Lake have also greatly benefitted from Legacy funding. As described by Angie Hong, Washington Conservation District Education Specialist, the wetland improvement project in this area will keep “445 pounds of phosphorus out of Moody Lake each year, which is 80 percent of the reduction needed to nurse Moody back to good health and prevent excessive algae growth.” This project was supported by a $429,284 Clean Water Grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, as part of the Legacy Amendment. For more Legacy Amendment-funded projects in the East Metro, check out this descriptive list on the East Metro Water website.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, about 40% of Minnesota’s lakes and streams are impaired. Water enthusiasts know the pain of dragging your boat through invasive pond weed, which feeds off excess phosphorus in lakes; we also know how gross and sometimes unsafe it can be to swim in areas with excess algae. In order for our agencies and watershed districts to be effective in the face of these mounting water quality problems, we need full and appropriate allocation of Legacy Amendment funding. We also need to follow the recommendations of the Clean Water Council, which was set up specifically to make sure we use Legacy funds correctly. I hope the Minnesota Legislature recognizes this value as well and votes to secure Legacy funding for its intended purpose.
Want to know how your legislators voted on the Legacy bill? Visit www.checkmylegislator.org to see look at the voting records of your state senator and representative.