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

Contact: Mary Robinson, 651-757-2525

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop, area lawmakers, local mayors, and community advocates 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 71 incidents of partially treated wastewater being released in southeastern 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. “Mega-rain” events are now four times more likely than they were a generation ago, with communities in southeastern Minnesota experiencing these extreme downpours in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2016, and 2020.

“It’s only a matter of time before more communities experience damaged homes and costly cleanups from extreme weather,” said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton. “Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, these new grants would help towns and cities assess our unique situations and pursue locally-tailored strategies to upgrade water infrastructure and reduce risks.”

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 and vulnerabilities, 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.

“These types of funds will remove any hesitations that communities might have as they balance much needed improvements and budgets. The effects of climate change are widespread and each community needs to plan for what's best for themselves,” added Lanesboro Mayor Jason Resseman.

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 and help communities 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

Additional support for $2.9 million funding request

Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs, Insurance Federation of Minnesota

“Minnesota’s changing weather patterns have become a serious financial concern. Since 1998, the state has suffered larger, stronger and more frequent severe weather outbreaks. This is causing significant pressure on homeowner, auto and commercial insurance premiums.”