Since voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008, the MPCA and other agencies have more funding for water quality. Making the agencies and others more accountable for that funding and its goal of clean water, several environmental groups successfully lobbied this past legislative session for a bill referred to as the Clean Water Accountability Act. Through the legislative process much of this bill became part of the Clean Water Legacy Act.
This new law aims to ensure that state reports are more specific in identifying all sources of pollution, that state agencies target funding where it can have the most benefit, and that the state reports to the public on its progress toward clean water goals.
This new law defines a fairly new approach by the MPCA called Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS). Over the past few years, the agency has worked to implement a watershed approach to protecting and restoring lakes and streams. Whereas previous studies (Total Maximum Daily Loads or TMDLs) and accompanying implementation plans often focused on a limited number of impaired lakes and/or stream segments, studies now look watershed-wide and include protection considerations for unimpaired waters.
With the watershed approach, the MPCA can assess the state’s waters more efficiently, saving money and time. The MPCA is currently on track for monitoring all of the state’s 81 major watersheds by 2017 and completing TMDLs and WRAPSs for those watersheds within the next ten years. The agency is also collecting more data, informing local plans and decisions, and producing a watershed plan that goes beyond the TMDLs to include timelines for actions.
Under the new law, WRAPSs must include the following:
- A precise assessment of pollution sources and needed reductions, including those from nonpoint sources
- Timelines and milestones for assessing progress
- Strategies to put the money where it will have the best result
- A plan for effective monitoring
The act also requires the state to develop the following:
- Biennial reporting by the MPCA of progress in achieving pollution reductions
- A nonpoint priority funding plan by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Minnesota Public Radio reported on the Clean Water Accountability Act in the final days of the legislative session.