Request for Fountain Lake has momentum

Published 10:00 am Sunday, March 3, 2013

Column: Senate Report, by Dan Sparks

Minnesota is a leader in clean water initiatives and new energy development. When it comes to protecting and preserving our lakes, we make significant investments to fund responsible solutions. Similarly, we recognize the need for reform and expansion to accommodate the growing biofuel industry.

This week I testified in support of legislation that puts into action the responsible solutions and expansions needed to keep Minnesota a leader in clean water and new energy. First, we looked at state funding for the restoration of Fountain Lake.

Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks

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Fountain Lake is at the heart of Albert Lea’s community. Each year, it draws long-time residents and new visitors to its shores. Many organizations and businesses use the area for festivals, markets, and hands-on learning experiences.

Testifying with me was Andy Henschel, project manager for the Shell Rock River Watershed District. Andy and I know this project has strong support across our communities. Many of you, including city, business and community leaders, sent letters endorsing the plan. During our testimony, we shared your support for this project with the committee to help clarify the need for state funding.

As for new energy development, we successfully began moving legislation that gives new fuels like biobutanol access to the marketplace. The bill also increases the goals of petroleum displacement and protects the investments already made in Minnesota’s ethanol industry. The state policy framework outlined in this bill will help maintain our state’s leadership in the biofuels industry.

Representatives from the NextGen Board Biofuels Taskforce also attended the hearing to support the legislation. It was the work of the biofuels taskforce last summer that led to the initiatives in this bill. Already, we have innovative biofuel companies making Minnesota their production home. We can encourage more biofuel and biochemical businesses to invest in Minnesota through this legislation.

The time to act on these projects is now. I believe these bills set a solid foundation and I welcome suggestions for improvement as they move through the legislative process.

Finally this week, we received good news about Minnesota’s economic recovery. The February budget forecast show’s a projected deficit of $627 million for the 2014-15 biennium. This is a $463 million improvement from last November which projected a $1.1 billion deficit.

I am pleased with the new budget forecast. These are some positive results and I think it is important that we see more revenue in the system. We still have some hard work to do to make sure Minnesota’s economy continues down the right track. Now it is up to the Legislature and governor to work together on building a sustainable responsible budget that strengthens our economic recovery.


Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the state senator for District 27.