MPCA, Northwestern Minnesota leaders appeal for investment to help communities prepare for extreme weather

Mary Robinson, 651-757-2525

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop, area lawmakers, local mayors, and representatives from building trades and the insurance industry today made a public appeal to the Legislature to pass a $2.9 million funding proposal that would help communities prepare for extreme rain events and other climate change impacts.

Much of Minnesota’s water infrastructure — including stormwater systems, sewers, and wastewater treatment plants — was designed for the climate of the past. Increasingly wet weather and more frequent extreme rain events overburden these systems and contribute to a statewide average of 150 wastewater overflows each year, including 29 incidents of partially treated wastewater being released in northwestern Minnesota in just the last two years.

“In too many cases, our aging and inadequate water infrastructure can’t handle the more extreme weather we see today, causing local streets to flood, sewer systems to back up into homes and businesses, and inflicting millions of dollars in damages to public and private property,” said MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop.

Minnesota now ranks second in the country for extreme weather events, only behind California, and Minnesotans have seen a 366% increase in homeowner insurance rates since 1998.

“Before 1998, Minnesota experienced very few large scale catastrophic events. But over the last 20 years, we’ve seen an incredible uptick in extreme weather events causing billions of dollars in damage. Too many Minnesotans are caught unprepared by these events,” explained Mark Kulda, vice president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota.

The proposed funding would support local community efforts to plan and prepare for extreme weather by providing grants to counties, cities, townships, and tribal governments for assessing risks, developing plans to increase resilience, and arming communities with the necessary planning and pre-design work needed to secure future funding for stormwater and wastewater infrastructure projects. Currently, these activities are not eligible for existing funding, which has been a major barrier for many communities.

“In recent years there has been an uptick in extreme weather events across the state and each one has the potential to wreak havoc on city infrastructure. A grant program like this is needed to help communities undertake the necessary planning so that we can be prepared for mega-rains or other extreme weather incidents,” said Fergus Falls mayor Ben Schierer.

Data from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) shows that for every $1 of investment in resilient infrastructure, $6 of benefit accrue to communities from avoided loss due to extreme precipitation, flooding and other disasters. With this funding, the MPCA could assist up to 15 communities each year — but the demand is even higher. This proposal represents a starting point, and one part of a larger framework of investments needed to help Minnesota grow jobs,  support communities as they adapt and prepare for extreme weather, and build climate resiliency.

Learn more about this proposal on the MPCA’s website: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/about-mpca/preparing-communities-our-changing-climate