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Pawlenty wants to borrow $147.4M for environment

ST. PAUL -- Flood-control projects and land set aside for wetlands would be funded under a borrowing proposal by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The governor announced Monday he wants to borrow $147.4 million for environmental uses, ranging from buy...

ST. PAUL -- Flood-control projects and land set aside for wetlands would be funded under a borrowing proposal by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The governor announced Monday he wants to borrow $147.4 million for environmental uses, ranging from buying new park land to improving sewer systems. That's $8 million more for the environment than Gov. Jesse Ventura did two years ago.

Included in the proposal is $20 million for anti-flood measures. East Grand Forks would get more than half, with Breckenridge slated for $3.75 million. The state money would help communities get millions more from the federal government.

"We are going to try to meet the most pressing needs and try to eliminate repetitive flooding," said Kent Lokkesmoe of the Department of Natural Resources.

Pawlenty said he's proceeding with a $22 million plan to take farmland out of production for improved water quality and wildlife habitat, despite farm groups' objections.

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Last year he proposed restoration of 100,000 acres to watersheds in northwest, southwest and southeast Minnesota. Major farm groups and Minnesota congressmen oppose the plan because Pawlenty wants some land to be removed from farming permanently.

Pawlenty said Monday he is "firm and committed" to having permanent easements in the bill.

However, he added, he is flexible -- as long as at least some land is permanently removed from farming.

"I don't want the perfect to get in the way of the good," Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty said that if legislators approve his $22 million request this year and a similar amount in 2006, it will bring $236 million in federal money to the Conservation Reserve Enhanced Program

The chairman of the Senate committee that deals with state borrowing supports the proposal. Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, is a farmer, but does not agree with farm groups' opposition to CREP.

"We would be stupid not to take advantage of it," he said of the federal money.

Other projects Pawlenty announced Monday include:

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- $26.48 million in grants to improve sewage systems.

- $14 million to help clean up closed landfills.

- $12 million to buy more parkland.

- $4 million for reforestation, including planting nearly 7 million trees on 13,300 acres.

- $2 million to help build the Lewis and Clark Water System in southwestern Minnesota.

Pawlenty also said he wants to borrow $18 million to loan beginning farmers and farmers making investments in their farms.

Pawlenty plans to announce his full bill -- funded by selling bonds -- on Wednesday. So far, he has announced $350 million worth of projects.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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