Water quality a main concern

Kari Petrie

Water, water, water.

When it comes to the environment, water quality will be the main concern in the upcoming elections, said Marty Broan, project manager at the Minnesota League of Conservation Voters. Broan said ensuring water is safe enough for people to swim and fish will be increasingly important in the Legislature.

“Minnesotans care so deeply about their water,” Broan said. “It’s the way they define Minnesota.”

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has assessed only 8 percent to 14 percent of Minnesota’s lakes to see if they meet water-quality standards, he said. Forty percent were in violation and designated as impaired.

The Legislature did not pass the bonding bill last year, which included $170 million for treating impaired waters and protecting natural habitats, he said.

But, Broan said, he does not anticipate any problems getting the bill passed this session.

Securing funding for environmental concerns will be a large issue in this year’s legislative session, Broan said.

Like other areas in the state’s budget, he said, environmental protection agencies have seen a decrease in funding. But unlike those other areas, people don’t hear as much about the environment in this election, he said.

“People take (environmental protection) for granted as a core Minnesota value,” he said.

Broan said another issue is the concern over the amount of mercury in fish.

“When you have a majority of lakes having a fish-consumption advisory, something’s wrong,” he said.

Broan said the issue is not a partisan one, because it affects everyone. Consuming fish contaminated with mercury can be harmful to pregnant women and children, he said.

Environmental issues are a concern for many University students. According to last month’s Minnesota Daily poll, more than half of University students think the environment is a very important issue.

Of those students, three-fourths said they will vote for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

Fifty-eight percent of students who identified themselves as Democrats said the issue is very important, and 24 percent of students who identified themselves as Republicans said the issue is very important.

Sierra Club intern and second-year University Law School student Erin Blower said the club is sponsoring a voting-records campaign, which gives those interested the environmental voting records of the presidential candidates.

The campaign is nonpartisan, and the group does not sponsor a candidate, she said.

“We let the record speak for itself,” Blower said.

Although President George W. Bush supported limits on diesel fuel emissions, Kerry tends to support more environmental protection initiatives, she said.

“Students should care; because caring about the environment is really caring about public health,” Blower said.