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Dayton wants $220 million to clean Minnesota water

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota communities and farmers would receive a $220 million boost in their efforts to clean up the state's water under a proposal Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled today.

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota communities and farmers would receive a $220 million boost in their efforts to clean up the state's water under a proposal Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled today.

Much of the money would help cities, mostly in rural Minnesota, to improve water and sewage treatment facilities. Dayton sets aside $30 million to meet a new law requiring vegetative buffers between cropland and streams and lakes.

"Minnesota long has been known for its water quality," Dayton said in announcing his proposal, adding that water is threatened by agriculture runoff and other problems.

"We have a challenge to act so the situation does not get worse," he said.

A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency proposal indicates communities statewide needs to spend $11 billion in the next two decades to fix water quality problems.

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"It is going to take an educated public," Dayton said, saying a Feb. 27 water quality summit he plans to host should help with that.

Many communities have problems affording treatment plant improvements and replacements, said Executive Director Jeff Freeman of the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority. Dayton's plan would provide financial assistance to many of those communities.

The announcement was the first of a two-part unveiling of the Dayton public works funding proposal, to be repaid by the state selling bonds. The rest of the bonding bill is to be announced Friday.

Dayton did say that the bonding plan would not fund reopening a private prison in Appleton or a proposal to spend more than $40 million to expand current prisons as they are about to be 500 prisoners over capacity.

Among items in the Dayton water plan:

-- $62 million to help communities pay for treatment plant upgrades to meet water quality standards.

-- $80 million to rehabilitate aging sewer and drinking water infrastructure.

-- $25 million in loans to help governments improve water quality for homes and businesses.

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-- $30 million to help farmers and other landowners improve water quality, including meeting the new buffer law.

-- $5 million for the Metropolitan Council to improve sewage treatment.

-- $5 million to replace about 300 acres of wetlands lost due to road construction.

-- $12.7 million to clean up contamination and industrial waste at 10 locations at the St. Louis River estuary and Duluth harbor (with federal money covering more than twice the state contribution).

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