Omnibus environment bill attacks invasive species

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Permit streamlining, environmental deregulation and aquatic invasive species measures could be stepped up if an omnibus environment bill passed by the House is signed into law.

The House voted 74-52 to approve HF2164, sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings). It now awaits action in the Senate where Rep. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) is the sponsor.

The bill includes language that allows state parks and recreation areas and the Minnesota Zoo to remain open during a government shutdown and creates a Children’s State Forest by exchanging lands within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for land that generates maximum revenues for the permanent school fund.

The bill requires the Pollution Control Agency commissioner to approve or deny permit applications within 60 days.

Aquatic invasive species-related measures include decontamination equipment of boats and other watercraft, inspection stations and adequate enforcement capacity to minimize wait times at contamination stations. It also charges the Department of Natural Resources commissioner with establishing a statewide course on how to identify aquatic invasive species when moving water-related equipment

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) challenged language that that would allow drainage of small wetlands outside the lakeshore wetland protection zone.

“If local units of government would choose to allow more wetlands to be drained, that might be one thing; but we are draining more and more (wetlands) and getting more and more flooding in Minnesota. Minnesotans have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on flooding and there’s no end in sight,” Wagenius said.

Rep. John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) successfully offered an amendment to increase fines for people who import waterborne aquatic invasive species into another lake or river.

An amendment successfully offered by Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) would ban the use of formaldehyde in children’s products.

Appropriations contained in HF2164 include $32.2 million for environmental enforcement; $11.3 million for lands and minerals management; and $3.4 million for renewable energy projects.