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Water legislation benefits Duluth, Oberstar says

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The city of Duluth and other cities in Minnesota may stand to receive millions from a massive water-quality bill that passed the House this afternoon.

The legislation, which was authored by Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., would help build new wastewater treatment plants, clean up pollution in the Great Lakes and could create 480,000 new jobs.

“All the water we ever had on this Earth, or ever will be, is with us today,” said Oberstar today from the House floor. “We aren’t going to create new water from any technological source… It’s our responsibility to care for the water that we have.”

The legislation authorizes $750 million over the next five years to address areas in the Great Lakes basin that have toxic sediment deposits. Some parts of the Duluth Superior Harbor may be eligible for funding under the program, according to Oberstar’s spokesman John Schadl.

Another $1.8 bill would be authorized for cities across the nation to address aging sewer systems that are polluting lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater. The city of Duluth and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District may be able to access some of that funding to address storm-water runoff issues that have led to the discharge of raw sewage into the St. Louis Bay, according to Schadl.

The legislation also provides $13.8 billion for low-interest loans to local communities for construction of wastewater treatment facilities and other water pollution abatement projects.

The legislation was supported by 244 Democrats and 73 Republicans.

Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., joined the rest of Minnesota’s Democrats in voting for the bill. Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline voted against it.

Bachmann said that she supported the bill’s goal of dealing with the nation’s aging water infrastructure, but that it “loses sight of this goal when it mandates and expands the Davis-Bacon Act requirements.”

The 1931 Davis-Bacon act requires payment of locally prevailing wages for federally funded contracts and became a lightening rod for Republicans during debate over the bill.

The Republicans attempted to strip the wage requirement from the bill, but were defeated.

“This bill will result in far too costly, fiscally irresponsible water projects across the nation,” said Bachmann.

Congress has not passed a water-quality authorization bill since 1994.

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