What drives MPCA violations?
In an announcement last week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency levied penalties against the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Northstar Materials Inc., a Bemidji-based contractor, for construction stormwater violations in Koochiching County.
While the violations have been fixed, MnDOT and Northstar Materials must pay $235,170 in civil penalties.
The MPCA said the violations, dating back to 2010, included discharging excessive amounts of construction-related sediment to surface waters, failing to have or implement a required stormwater pollution prevention plan and failing to implement appropriate erosion- and sediment-control best management practices across the site.
The result was excess sediments discharged to waters adjacent to the Rainy River, adversely affecting water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.
In its statement, the MPCA said “penalties and enforcement actions against state and local government entities are not that unusual.”
The statement certainly raises eyebrows and questions. How frequently are state and government agencies penalized? And why would it not be unusual?
Is there a lack of awareness or education? Or are the penalties not severe enough?
Welcome back students
As the unofficial end of summer nears, students at the area’s higher education institutions have returned to campus.
The return of students, faculty and staff represents a busy and exciting time. The energy, enthusiasm and vibrancy bring a special dynamic to our community.
Best wishes for a terrific year.
This November, along with all the candidates voters will be asked to support, will bring the Bemidji School District’s request to renew an operating levy.
The School Board wants district patrons to support a $501-per-pupil levy – an extension of a tax approved twice before. The seven-year levy would extend the current levy until 2020 and save the district money by asking the question during a general election.
Approving operating levies like the one proposed provides tools to the district that the state fails to support in its inadequate education funding formula.
In the past, the levy has funded all-day, every-day kindergarten, new buses and limiting class sizes in Bemidji.
Lawmakers made right decision
Late last week, state lawmakers put aside politics to overwhelmingly approve disaster aid relief for Minnesotans affected by severe weather this year.
Local lawmakers helped pushed for the package, including $7.9 million to recover losses in Beltrami, Cass and Itasca counties after the July 2 storm.
The special session, quick and to the point, represents the best of government. Now, hopefully, the money will allow property owners and businesses to get quickly back to normal.