Lawmakers poised to address the drought

Published 9:10 am Thursday, March 28, 2013

Column: Guest Column, by Jeanne Poppe

According to a report released last week by the U.S. Drought Monitor, large portions of northwest, west central, southwest and south central Minnesota face extreme drought conditions. In fact, 67 percent of our state’s land was identified as experiencing extreme or severe drought.

This is an ongoing problem that presents serious consequences for our entire state.

Jeanne Poppe

Jeanne Poppe

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Minnesota farmers and thousands of others who work in our agriculture industry bear the brunt of the economic pain when crops are lost due to drought, but it impacts consumers as well. Production shortfalls mean prices go up at a time when many families are still struggling as our country emerges from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Lawmakers at Minnesota’s Capitol are preparing to address ongoing water shortages. Next week, the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee is expected to discuss legislation that would establish new conservation measures, such as potential changes to water usage fees.

Abnormally dry weather conditions that began in autumn 2011 do not appear to be ending any time soon. Unfortunately, higher than average snowfall over this past winter is not expected to bring much relief.

With soil still extremely dry in much of our state and lingering winter temperatures keeping the ground frozen, most of the moisture in the snow and ice now will be unable to soak into the ground when warmer weather arrives. Instead, it would run off into lakes, streams and rivers — making the prospect of flooding more realistic.

Our region is no stranger to flooding. Austin has experienced more than 10 major floods in the past 30 years.

A half cent local sales tax approved by Austin voters in 2006 and bonding funds from the Legislature have provided significant resources to fund flood mitigation projects. I was proud to play a role in shaping the legislation that extended the local option sales tax to our city and I plan to keep working to secure funding to mitigate flood damage as I have done since first elected.

At the end of the day, increasingly unpredictable weather and other impacts from climate change mean we need to become more considerate and smarter when it comes to consuming natural resources.

Regardless of the challenges Mother Nature throws our way, our communities know we will survive and face these challenges with a forthright attitude and can-do spirit.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns about water use policies or the impact of flooding and drought on Minnesota, please get in touch with me. You can contact me by phone at 651-296-4193, by email at, or by postal mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55155.


Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, is the state representative for District 27B.