House bonding bill, sans Coon Rapids dam funding, fails

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Coon Rapids Dam funding is no longer in a House flood hazard mitigation bonding bill, and the bill itself crashed in the House on Friday night.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and others have wanted some $17 million in funding to upgrade the old dam to better protect the upper reaches of the Mississippi River from invading Asian carp.

But over past days, the dam funding portion was removed from the mitigation bill.

House Ways and Means Chairwoman Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, explained on the House floor that she had always made clear she wanted a separate flood mitigation bill.

“It doesn’t seem likely,” Holberg said of a separate bonding bill being crafted during the remaining three days of the legislative session.

Lawmakers were upset that the flood mitigation bill addressed emergency items in the western part of the state, but failed to address problems elsewhere.

Democrats warned Republicans that to pass the bonding bill they needed at least 81 votes, and questioned whether the approach they were taking could produce them.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, who has been pushing for the dam funding, said the only way to secure money for her project was if the flood mitigation bill failed.

The dam needs upgrading, Hortman explained, because a scour hole in the river bottom was threatening its structural integrity.

The dam is already graded as about 89 percent effective in protecting against advancing Asian carp, but upgrading it would made it nearly 100 percent effective, she explained.

“I would loved for it to be in there,” said House Capital Investment Chairman Larry Howes, R-Walker, of the dam funding.

But Howes spoke of fiscal realities.

Rep,. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, former House Capital Investment chairman, called the approach the Republicans were taking with the bonding bill short-sighted.

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, spoke of pressing sewer treatment problems in cities on the Iron Range, emergency situations for them. Why should they pass a bill aimed at helping just one part of the state and not the rest? Rukavina argued.

The small bonding bill was voted down on a 76-57 vote..

Dayton has called for a $1 billion bonding, and recently explained that he was “mystified” why Republicans were refusing to agree to one.

He styled the bonding bill as a job  creator, especially for the suffering construction industry.

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