Over Republican objections, the Minnesota House voted Thursday night to increase fees for water use.
Advocates say the higher fees will raise badly-needed money for the state to monitor groundwater supplies. Some parts of Minnesota are beginning to experience water shortages. The money would fill gaps caused by recent cuts to agencies charged with mapping and monitoring groundwater supplies.
But Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa said raised fees would harm farm irrigators, industry, and cities around the state.
"The city of Goodview, the administrator emailed me and said, 'Steve, our water fees will go up 300 percent,'" Drazkowski said. "That's an additional $1,700 a year for a small city of 4,000 people. What are they going to do?
"They'll raise their property taxes because we're putting fees on our cities throughout Minnesota."
Cities would pay $15 per million gallons of water for residential use; farm irrigators would pay $22 per million gallons. These are sharp increases from current rates.
Bill author, DFL Rep. Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis, said the average homeowner will pay about 75 cents more each year.
"What do you think your constituents want? Do they want to spend the 75 cents and know that they'll have drinking water, or save that 75-cents and not know?" Wagenius said.
The fee hike is part of the House omnibus agriculture, environment, and natural resources finance bill. Another section of the bill provides money to pay for development of environmental standards in the silica sand mining industry.