ST. CLOUD -- The impact of climate change is causing state and local leaders to highlight the critical need for stormwater system upgrades across Minnesota.

More frequent and heavy rain events over the last decade are straining aging and undersized stormwater systems, leading to increased community flooding.

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Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Katrina Kessler was in St. Cloud Friday calling attention to Governor Tim Walz' proposed $21.1-million grant program to help local communities improve and update their stormwater systems.

She says this funding would greatly mitigate flood damage and help local governments get ahead of these increasing severe rain events.

There are a number of options to help with infrastructure, you can put in bigger pipes, design above ground systems like ponds, all of those are options on the table. This proposal lets local governments prioritize their issues and propose solutions that make sense for them.

Kessler says the funding would be distributed similar to a bonding bill, with city leaders lobbying for their projects to be funded. She says each project may be awarded up to $5-million.

Sartell City Engineer April Ryan says like so many communities across the state, they've been dealing with increased street and home flooding, and sediment removal from their treatment ponds.

Like any infrastructure these ponds have a useful life and so after it's been in place for a number of years you have to take out that sediment. If you don't remove it, the pond doesn't function properly, it floods the upstream areas, and have more pollutants going down to our water bodies.

Ryan says it's estimated Sartell needs to remove about 6,500 tons of sediment from their stormwater treatment ponds, which costs roughly $6 to $8-million. St. Cloud is looking at a $3-million project to make improvements to the Highway 23 Lift Station.

Kessler says this grant program sends a signal these improvements are needed and prepares lawmakers how to best use the federal dollars awarded to the state more efficiently.

If this new legislation is approved, Kessler says they are hoping to fund up to 20 local infrastructure projects.


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