The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 28, 2012

Minnesota River Board ready, seeking help to carve new path

MANKATO — For 20 years, a board representing 37 counties along the Minnesota River has worked to reduce pollution and improve the rivers.

But as the state has cut funding to the board and some counties have lost interest, there are calls for the group to reorganize or even fold.

Blue Earth County Commissioner Drew Campbell, who sits on the Minnesota River Board’s leadership group, bristles at criticism that the board should disband and said the group is seeking ideas and outside reviews to reorganize. And he places much of the blame for the stalled progress on the river at the feet of state lawmakers.

“If it’s so important to the state to clean up the river, why would you throw crumbs at the one organization that’s actually trying to do something,” Campbell said.

The board was created by the Legislature and was provided ongoing funding of $100,000. The board also collects dues from member counties. The state has cut its funding to $42,000 and some counties have dropped out — 22 of the 37 counties now are members — leaving less dues money.

Campbell said it’s wrong to criticize the board when it’s been left with less money and authority.

“The board is there to provide leadership, create partnerships and help improve the basin. We’re not the ones responsible for cleaning up the river.

“It’s a state statute to have the board, so why is the state cutting the funding then demanding the river be crystal clear and saying it’s our fault?”

The issue came to a head recently when Dakota County abruptly pulled out of the board, triggering fears more metro counties would follow.

Patrick Moore, head of the Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) group, believes the statute creating the board had flaws.

“In the organizational chart there was no place on it for citizens. It always works when there is citizen leadership involved,” Moore said.

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