The bill includes funding for city grant programs and an additional $3 million per year to counties to fund disposal of contaminated wood.
(Published Apr 8, 2019)
Bills have been proposed in both the House and Senate that would provide grant funds to help cities deal with the spread of emerald ash borer (EAB) in Minnesota.
The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division completed work on its omnibus budget bill (HF 2209) on April 4. Several provisions were included to fund local government efforts to manage this problem, with an amendment adopted to clarify concerns the League raised about how the grant programs would be managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
This funding is something the League and other interested groups have sought for many years and, although the Legislature has been sympathetic to cities, funds have not been appropriated. But now the idea of state assistance for this costly and urgent urban forest management challenge seems to be gaining momentum.
The current wording in the House budget bill creates three pots of money.
An appropriation of $500,000 per year would be for grants to local units of government anywhere in the state to develop ash management plans, to identify and convert ash stands, and to replace removed ash trees.
Another $1 million per year is available for grants to remove and dispose of ash trees within quarantined counties, of which there are now 18 in the state, covering all of eastern and southeastern Minnesota, plus Martin and Southern St. Louis counties. An important component of these appropriations is that they are ongoing annual expenditures, not one-time spending. Consistent base funding will be essential for cities as this disease continues to spread across the state, and this would make future funding increases much easier to propose than the creation of new program spending.
A third program is created by the bill to provide $3 million per year in grants to counties for the disposal of EAB waste wood at two biomass facilities that are equipped to handle waste wood as fuel to generate electricity. That program is run through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and is dependent on a new revenue stream being created through an increase in the solid waste tax. This would be of tremendous assistance to cities as they seek ways to properly manage contaminated wood waste.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee will develop its omnibus budget bill starting on April 9. SF 1906 (Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point), a bill that would allocate $13 million per year to the Department of Natural Resources for local grants to address EAB, was heard in that committee on April 3 and was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus budget bill.
The League testified in support of that legislation and will be working with the committee to include funding in its budget bill, so that both the House and Senate budgets have some form of recommended EAB funding.
The creation of a state grant program available to cities to deal with EAB and other urban forest pest issues is one of the League’s 2019 legislative priorities. The League is asking the state to commit at least $5 million per year to that need.
For more background information about this bill, read a previous Cities Bulletin article.
* By posting you are agreeing to the LMC Comment Policy.