The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 24, 2013

Minnesota River cleanup in running for funding

MSU water center, Farmamerica didn't make the list

There were nearly $4 in requests for every $1 in lottery proceeds for environmental projects in Minnesota, and the panel assigned to make the hard choices has pared 192 proposals to 94 finalists for the 2014 funding. Just one of three requests focused on Mankato-area environmental efforts is still in the running.

An $85,000 proposal from the Friends of the Minnesota Valley to fund community cleanups of stormwater pollution is one of the finalists invited to make a presentation next month to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. The 10-year-old Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality has sponsored 410 projects using nearly 13,000 volunteers in the Minnesota River watershed to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen going into the river.

The focus is enlisting volunteers to rake, sweep and bag grass clippings, leaves and other sediment from boulevards and public areas to prevent it from getting into the river via storm sewers. The program is coordinated by Scott Sparlin, who also coordinates the New Ulm-based Riverblast event and is former president of the New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen organization.

Failing to advance to the final round was a $136,000 proposal from the Water Resources Center at Minnesota State University. The project also would have focused on cleaning up the Minnesota River.

Titled the Minnesota River Basin Water Quality Success Stories, the project proposed to spread the word on what sorts of initiatives are working to clean up the river and encourage their use by more landowners in the river's watershed.

Another area project among the nearly 100 not selected to make a presentation to the board was a proposal by rural Waseca's Farmamerica. The state's only agricultural environmental learning center sought $160,000 to develop a curriculum for K-12 students on the potential for farm-based renewable energy technologies such as wind, biomass and solar.

Starting Oct. 1, the LCCMR will hear presentations on the 94 finalists who are cumulatively seeking $58.7 million. That's down from more than $111 million in requests by the original 192 proposals. Just under $30 million is expected to be available for 2014 from proceeds of lottery tickets sold in the state. The winning projects will be decided by the commission, made up of legislators and citizens, at meetings on Oct. 23 and 24.

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