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Minnesota is a leader in clean water initiatives

Six years ago, Minnesota voters passed a constitutional amendment that increased the state’s sales tax by 3/8 of 1 percent to fund projects related to clean water, natural resources, and arts and culture.

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According to a 2008 poll by Minnesota Environmental Partnership, 42 percent of those who voted for it indicated that cleaning up and protecting Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams was the primary reason for their vote.

One-third of the funds generated through the amendment are dedicated to clean water in Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater.

This stable source of funding, set in the state’s constitution for 25 years, has enabled policymakers to tackle projects that are expected to improve water quality.

So far, more than 300 individual amendment-funded projects have been sponsored by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

Though many of these efforts are still under way, the amendment is beginning to bear fruit in the form of major initiatives that will position Minnesota as a leader in water resources protection.

For decades, water management professionals have been making steady progress on assessing water quality in the state’s 12,000 lakes and 105,000 miles of streams. This establishes baseline data and sets the stage for targeted improvements in areas found to be unhealthy.

Over the past five years, the MPCA has moved from assessing a smaller number of lakes and streams across the state to evaluating each of the state’s 81 watersheds on a rotating, 10-year cycle.

“It is only fitting that Minnesota, a state with abundant water resources located at the top of our continent’s watersheds, should lead the way in protecting and restoring those resources,” said Commissioner John Stine of MPCA. “This amendment was a bold statement by Minnesota voters about the priorities they have for our state.... We intend to follow through on our commitment to carry out the vision that voters set forth.”