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Legacy funds don't pay for projects alone

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ST. PAUL -- The "legacy amendment" usually is blended with other money to fund nearly 10,000 projects around Minnesota.

One of the most complex projects fell on the shoulders of Myron Jesme, Red Lake Watershed District director in northwestern Minnesota, to implement. He cobbled nearly $12 million from about a dozen federal, state and local sources to fix problems caused in 1904 when a straight channel was cut to replace six miles of the meandering Grand Marais Creek from near Fisher to the Red River.

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Jesme said that about $3 million in legacy money was the key, especially a $2.32 million allotment from the outdoor heritage fund.

"We needed this $2.32 million to put the gas in the car and start driving," Jesme said. "Once we got that money, the federal government came in."

Other agencies began joining the project, too. Each has its own reason, but combined they are funding flood reduction, erosion control, water quality improvement and habitat restoration along the creek.

After a multiyear effort, the hope is to have water flowing through the original channel by year's end, keeping the shorter straight channel for flood relief when that is needed. Putting water through a curvy creek will keep 700 tons of sediment out of the Red River each year.

Restoring the last six miles of the 45-mile-long Grand Marais Creek has many benefits, Jesme said, by returning aquatic and related ecological systems to how they were before the 1904 channel was changed.

Legacy money often provides the seed funds to attract other projects. In that way, it is like the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. That fund has nothing to do with the legacy amendment, but it gets a lot of attention on a Web page otherwise devoted to legacy funds and has been around longer than the legacy amendment.

The Legislative Coordinating Commission reports that the fund, which gets revenue from the Minnesota Lottery, attracts nearly as many page visits as its legacy home page. The arts and cultural heritage fund gets about a third of the page visits, slightly more than a page about the clean water fund.

The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which recommends to lawmakers how to spend the lottery money, recently compiled a $45.8 million list of 64 projects for consideration next year.

The list includes items ranging from a University of Minnesota research center aimed at slowing the spread of invasive plants and animals to researching animals including bats, turtles, elk, loons and white pelicans to improve preservation efforts.

Such projects are similar to some of the outdoors-related ones that get legacy money, and the two pots of revenue often are confused.

Here are some examples of projects at least partially funded by legacy money:

-- Becker County Historical Society, $334, to add 12 rolls of microfilmed newspapers to broaden public accessibility to primary records.

-- Goodhue Soil and Water Conservation District, $105,450, to construct seven grade stabilization structures in Minneola Township to reduce erosion and sedimentation to North Fork of Zumbro River, protect public roads, retain water, create wildlife habitat and increase groundwater recharge.

-- Stevens County Water Quality Initiative, $84,000, to establish up to 12 miles of buffers along the Pomme de Terre River and its tributaries and install up to five rain gardens within the cities of Morris and Chokio.

-- Clay County Fair, $10,250, to create a mural on the back of the grandstand that embodies the activities and spirit of the Clay County Fair.

-- Friends of Lake Bronson State Park (Kittson County), $5,050, for the Woodcarvers' Festival.

-- Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District, $329,750, to improve the water quality of Little Buffalo Creek, a tributary to the Mississippi River.

-- City of Kandiyohi, $6,114, to install new doors and windows to the well house, purchase and install six wellhead protection signs.

-- Farmington Elementary School, $13,603, for all students at Farmington Elementary to work with artists using the European and American folk song and dance, Ghanaian drumming, West African dance and puppetry.

-- Beltrami County Historical Society, $6,896, for Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News: Early Healthcare, an exhibit on early county health care drawn from primary records in local and state repositories.

-- Minnesota Public Television Association, $6.2 million, for production and to buy programs.

-- Minnesota Discovery Center (St. Louis County), $4,829, to create an exhibit on the history of the Iron Range as told through personal narrative of 10 residents.

-- Nobles Soil and Water Conservation District, $22,346, to test waters needing data for impairment listing in the Rock River and Little Sioux watersheds.

-- University of Minnesota, $4.4 million, to establish an aquatic invasive species research center to fight species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels.

-- Park Rapids, $8,058, to test wells water and aquifer.

-- Boys and Girls Club of Morrison County, $4,500, to invite a resident artist and arts educator, Jodi Legeros, to conduct fine arts programs at the Little Falls club location.

-- Carlos Township in Douglas County, $28,000, to evaluate alternatives to fix failing sewage treatment systems.

-- Wadena-Deer Creek School District, $11,836, to create works of art and learn creative problem solving strategies.

-- Cottage Grove, $6,500, for spill response plan and well survey.

-- Woodbury, $10,000, for well site study, ordinance review and public education.

-- Dakota County Historical Society, $6,183, for 20 interviews about the history of the Hastings State Hospital, 1938-78.

-- Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation District, $130,055, to develop the watershed restoration and protection, while also enlarging and sustaining public participation.

More information is available at www.legacy.leg.mn.

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