Dayton talks water quality

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Gov. Mark Dayton takes questions from reporters after participating in the first two rounds of a town hall meeting on water quality in Mankato Wednesday.

MANKATO — Despite wet conditions and threatening tornadoes, roughly 200 people showed up at Minnesota State University, Mankato, to discuss goals for improving water quality.

Gov. Mark Dayton hosted the second of 10 townhall meetings across the state to discuss goals and challenges of achieving his 25 by ’25 water quality goal.

“I am hoping to find a common cause and have everybody look at what their part is because each one of us is a source for water quality in Minnesota,” Dayton said.

His proposal is to increase water quality in Minnesota by 25 percent by the year 2025. To begin the process, he is traveling the state to raise local interest in what everybody can do to help improve water quality.

The meeting opened with a few speakers who showed examples of how they dealt with water quality and encouraged people listening to get together.

Dayton spoke, arguing in favor of foregoing past finger pointing and encouraging listeners to look forward to solutions.

“This is not going to be solved by rules and regulations, they have their place, but this has got to be an ethic,” Dayton said. “It has got to be an ethic that spreads in the community.”

After the brief opening statements, the crowd separated into breakout groups that discussed the answers to each of three questions.

The first question was, “what goals could be established to improve water quality by 25 percent in South Central Minnesota?”

After discussing it at their tables, participants were asked to submit their three best answers on pigeonhole.at. There all the answers could be viewed and voted on, though the organizers were not too concerned with relative popularity.

The top three answers for the first question were: increasing cover crops, perennials and soil health with 11 votes; increasing water storage in soil, structures and wetlands with eight votes; and increasing acres of perennials with five votes. The third answer was tied with encouraging buffer strips which also had five votes.

The next question was:, “what actions are needed to get to these goals for South Central Minnesota?”

The top two most popular answers were increased funding with eight votes, and watershed-wide planning and funding with four.

Three answers tied with three votes: upstream temporary water storage, practices to manage water and ditch management.

Finally, participants had to answer “what specific next steps are needed to move the actions forward now?”

Top two answers were additional funding with six votes and education at all levels with five votes. The third most popular answers (tied with four votes each) were upland storage and bridging the understanding of water issues between rural and urban audiences.

To view all of the answers go to pigeonhole.at and use “Mankato” as the password. Ideas can be shared further online at eqb.state.mn.us; look for the share option.

“I just assumed throughout most of my career that clean water was just a God-given gift that we were assured of in perpetuity,” Dayton said. “Well, it is a God-given gift, but it is nothing we are assured of unless we act to assure ourselves, assure our children and our grandchildren and generations to follow them.”

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.

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