ST. PAUL, Minn. — A new panel charged with evaluating strategies to curb the impacts of severe weather on infrastructure in Minnesota met for the first time Monday, beginning their work of drafting recommendations to present to the state legislature next year.
Members of the Infrastructure Resilience Advisory Task Force over the next few months will work on how state and local partners can better coordinate with each other as they respond to damaging storms, rains, winds and snowfall that can tear up roads, bridges, wastewater systems and more.
Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park, who is chair of the group, said many communities are taking good steps to mitigate the impacts, but that work is happening "in silos." She hopes the panel will create a clearinghouse of sorts that can get everyone on the same page.
"What the goal for this task force is to really set up some sort of organizational council, whatever we call it, to be that resource for the locals, for the counties, for the organizations out there that are doing the boots on the ground work and might just need a little assistance in navigating," Koegel told WCCO. "And then also, how are we training our locals to be good asset managers so that we're not replacing something that didn't need to be replaced because it wasn't cared for properly."
Koegel wants to look to states like Colorado and Michigan that have similar infrastructure-focused entities in state government tasked with being a link to local communities. Any council the task force comes up with would also help smaller cities leverage federal dollars in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for climate resiliency projects.
A survey of local government organizations by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last year found financial resources for construction of climate-resilient projects and best practices for adaptation would be the most helpful ways the state could assist them.
State climate data show Minnesota is getting warmer and wetter, now with more common heavy rains.
Richard Graves, director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview that experts in the sustainability field have shifted their thinking from long-term solutions to mitigate climate change's worst impact to short-term adaption to extremes.
"We set design requirements for one set of futures that we assume—rain being an example of one of them—and the future we're operating in is not in the design requirements we set for stormwater and other things," said Graves, who is not on the task force.
The meeting on Monday was an introduction of members and an overview of the scope of their work. The panel includes Republicans and Democrats in the legislature, representatives from organizations representing local governments, someone from Xcel Energy and more.
It comes as 9 in 10 Americans in a recent AP News poll said they have experienced at least one extreme weather event in the past five years and 64% of U.S. adults say they've recently experienced it and believe it was at least partially fueled by climate change.
Cities are looking for innovative solutions so that their infrastructure
"What we need to do is instead of always treating the symptom, we need to treat we need to start doing that preventative care," Koegel said.
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