Feds will give MN $350M to protect lakes, rivers, and groundwater

Dayton says more than 40 percent of the state's waters are impaired or polluted.

Minnesota's getting $350 million in federal funding to protect and improve water quality.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday. It means $350 million in federal funding plus $150 million from the state will go toward an effort called the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). It will affect waters across 60,000 acres in 54 Minnesota counties. That's most of the state, considering it has 87 counties.

Minnesota must commit $150 million in order to get the full $350 million from the federal government. So far, $54.8 million of that has already been appropriated in past legislative sessions.

“Through this landmark agreement, Minnesota will be better able to protect and improve our waters for our families, natural habitat, and our future," Dayton said. "Clean water is everyone’s challenge, and everyone’s responsibility.”

According to the news release, CREP will target areas of southern and western Minnesota that face "significant water quality challenges, to protect and improve our natural resources for future generations."

Farmers and agriculture land owners in those areas will be encouraged to enroll their land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve easement program "to create buffers, restore wetlands, and protect wellheads for drinking water."

Basically, those programs pay farmers to leave the land alone.

According to the Star Tribune, the programs will probably be pretty popular considering farmers aren't getting much money for crops anymore.

Water quality in Minnesota

Water quality has been a pretty big topic in Minnesota.

According to the governor's office, more than 40 percent of the state's waters are listed as impaired or polluted. And Minnesota has a lot of water.

Additionally, damaging aquatic species have invaded more that 550 lakes.

Dayton is also concerned about Minnesotans' drinking water. Some communities still rely on old wooden pipes for their drinking water. And testing has shown that 60 percent of the wells in central parts of the state may not provide water that's safe to drink.

In 2015, Dayton signed a law that requires vegetation buffers along rivers, streams and ditches. Basically, a buffer is a bunch of plants that keep chemicals and sediment from running into the water.

Governor Dayton declared a “Year of Water Action” in August. It urges Minnesotans to rethink water usage, make informed consumer choices, and talk to others about clean water protection and preservation.

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MPCA adds more Minnesota lakes and rivers to impaired list

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is placing 500 additional lakes and sections of rivers on its list of impaired waters. Minnesota now has more than 3,600 bodies of water on the list. MPR reports about 40 percent of the state's waters are considered to have an excess of nitrogen, phosphorus, mercury, bacteria or other pollutants. Hundreds of clean-up plans have been developed over the past two decades, but less than 20 bodies of water have come of the list.