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Letter to the Editor: Erosion Prevention is Cheaper than Clean-Up

Storm damage in the wake of soil and water conservation budget cuts highlights the need for "small but smart investments," writes author.

To the editor:

Minnesotans have pulled together and responded to severe storm damage throughout the state. We are now in the process of recovering again from some of the worst flooding our state has ever seen. Northeastern Minnesota and parts of southern Minnesota saw high levels of rainfall in a short duration and have the flooding and damage to prove it.

As we have several times during the past few years, the legislature will convene a special session to help communities devastated by floods and storms. Minnesotans do the right thing and we come together to help those in need.

However, we know how and have the ability to prevent disaster damage and minimize the costs of clean-up. Some effective protections are those soil conservation and water retention practices — like conservation buffers — that have been around since the 1930s. Conservation buffers help control and reduce erosion, preventing water pollution and soil loss. Long after the flood waters recede, soil erosion damage causes tremendous problems for public infrastructure and our economy that relies on our lakes, rivers, and streams.

From 2008-2011, Minnesota taxpayers spent anywhere from $713,000 to $1.2 million a year on preventive soil conservation buffers, and for flooding in 2007 and 2010, we spent $3 million in each disaster response for erosion control.

Unfortunately, Republican legislators eliminated the funding for these buffers starting with last year’s government shutdown and going forward. Now, as preliminary storm damage estimates are compiled, Minnesota needs nearly $36 million in erosion control funding to respond to storm damage.

In the future, we should remember that prevention is cheaper than clean-up. Small but smart investments in prevention practices can make recovery and clean-up easier for those dealing with disasters, and save us millions in taxpayer dollars later. That’s smart budgeting and better for the people of Minnesota.

Rick Hansen

State Representative District 39A

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