Governor Mark Dayton is traveling the state this late summer and fall to hold a series of 10 water quality town hall meetings.

Governor Mark Dayton is traveling the state this late summer and fall to hold a series of 10 water quality town hall meetings to discuss and share ideas on his initiative to improve water quality in the state by 25 percent by 2025. His second meeting was at Minnesota State University, Mankato on Aug. 16.

Calling water quality a crucial issue that Minnesota has to face up to, Gov. Dayton said that south central Minnesota is a microcosm of the issues involved. “You have land use in rural areas heavily dependent on agriculture—a mainstay of the economy in the region; you have urban areas like Mankato and St. Peter and smaller communities that are dealing with their challenges of water quality.”

“In Minnesota, we’re the land of sky blue waters,” added Dayton. “You know, I used to assume throughout most of my career, that clean water was just a God-given gift that we were sure of into perpetuity. Well, it is a God-given gift, but it’s nothing we’re assured of unless we act to assure ourselves and to assure our children, our grandchildren and generations to follow them, that we’ve taken responsible measures, all of us together—this is not about blaming any one sector or anyone else, this is about all of us together—figuring out what we can do to merge the different economic interests that are very much affected, whether it is cost of production or cost of providing clean water through water treatment facilities. Everybody is dealing with economic realities in challenging economic times.”

Speaking of his 25 by 25 initiative, Gov. Dayton said, “Even then, our children and grandchildren will be dealing with the consequences of our decision and our actions for decades to come. So it’s a huge responsibility, one that I believe all of us in Minnesota need to embrace, and we’ve always been good at solving problems in Minnesota.”

Mike Roll, who created the Crystal Waters Project (CWP)—dedicated to improving water quality in the Lake Crystal Watershed, said he got tired of worrying about water quality and hearing farm and city people trade accusations of blame, so he decided to get to work. “We quit pointing fingers and all came together,” said Roll. Since 2012, CWP has accomplished adoption of 150 storm drains in Lake Crystal, encouraged water gardens and erosion gardens, removed 97,000 pounds of carp from the lake and got county ditches cleaned. “We have plant growth in our lake for probably the first time in 20 years, water clarity is better, fish are not dying the winter, oxygen levels are up,” said Roll. “It’s a feel good story about coming together and making a difference. That’s what Governor Dayton is talking about.”

Mapleton farmer Steve Trio, whose family was recognized as Blue Earth County Farm Family of the Year, spoke of their efforts on the farm. “We’ve been working on our farm to be vigorous in our soil testing and finding out what our soil capacities are as far as what they can hold for nitrogen and other nutrients,” he said.

The Trio farm was the first Blue Earth County farm to become a Minnesota Water Quality Certified Farm. Trio spoke about some of their water holding projects. “We are at the headwaters of the Buford watershed, it’s a big responsibility keeping everything clean; we installed a field containment system because we are so close to the open ditch.”

Trio commented that he’s hopeful there will be more incentives, rather than mandates. That was a sentiment echoed during round table discussions after the speakers were done. Attendees at each table discussed goals and actions that could help improve water quality in south central Minnesota. While a variety of ideas were brought up, two themes were repeated: 1) increase water storage in soil, structures and wetlands to hold more water on the land—both rural and urban; 2) money—increase funding to incentivize farmers to adopt best practices, provide for watershed-wide planning and offer more education for farm and city people.