Bill HF 1021 was proposed during the 2012-2013 legislative session. It would have exempted minor ditch repairs from certain environmental civil actions. A bill like this could conceivably have huge repercussions on the environment and allowable citizen response.
MCEA executive director, Scott Strand, testified against this bill when it was heard in the House Environmental Policy Committee. MCEA gave three strong reasons to oppose:
1. The bill was an attempt to roll back the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), which was adopted in 1971 and has proven to be a critical tool to allow citizens access to the courts to stop pollution, impairment, or destruction of Minnesota’s natural resources.
2. The bill would have weakened wetland protection. 90% of the wetlands in the Red River Valley have already been lost because of drainage, which has resulted in poorer flood control, more water pollution, and enormous losses in wildlife habitat. This bill would have stifled the ability of the Wetlands Conservation Act (WCA) to stop drainage projects that damage wetlands. The bill’s proponents claimed that this would just exempt small projects, but small projects (a culvert for example) can do great damage. Lots of small projects together can have dramatic cumulative impacts.
3. The bill was an end run around the stakeholder processes already in place to address these kinds of issues. For example, a stakeholder group known as the Drainage Work Group meets routinely to discuss best management practices when it comes to drainage issues and how they affect agricultural interests as well as environmental interests. MCEA participates in this forum with other groups like the DNR, the MPCA, BWSR, the Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota, and others.