One would think few ideas would receive as much bipartisan support in the Minnesota Legislature as protecting our environment.

That’s why we are encouraging Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, to continue her push to get the Whiskey Creek Enhancement Project in Baxter passed by the Minnesota House, Minnesota Senate and Gov. Tim Walz.

The project would be important not only in Baxter and Brainerd, but potentially along the entire route of the Mississippi River.

The effort is Ruud’s self-described mission this year, and we applaud her for it. The project, if funded, would purify and treat runoff from 400 acres of highly developed land running through the former golf course property in Baxter to the Mississippi River in Brainerd.

In a Guest Opinion in the Feb. 5 edition of the Brainerd Dispatch, Ruud noted the project was ranked second highest for removal of phosphorus out of 59 projects by the Mississippi Headwaters Board. Out of the upper 400 miles of the Mississippi River, this watershed has the highest percent of developed land use.

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“Completing this project will help save our great river,” Ruud said. “... It’s critical that this project be completed as soon as possible.”

The benefits are many. In her Guest Opinion, Ruud pointed to several: The river currently doesn’t meet water quality standards and over 2 million people drink water out of the Mississippi River every day, but this project would increase the water’s quality. It’s ranked by the U.S. Forest Service in the top five of all Minnesota watersheds for the ability to produce clean water for downstream drinking water. This project would capture and treat stormwater runoff from 400 acers of highly impervious developed land. Once established, the project would control watershed flows and improve water quality within Whiskey Creek and the Mississippi River. This project would significantly reduce sediment and phosphorus loading to the Mississippi River, keeping our waters healthy and clean.

After a report identified hot spots for pollution, the city of Baxter developed a study to refine the treatment and cost for the sub-watershed site at Whiskey Creek. We applaud Baxter's vision for initiating the study and moving the plan forward. Now it’s time to fund it.

This is a project that will have a positive impact downstream, in actual improvement and in inspiration. Protecting Whiskey Creek protects the Mississippi River, and if a project can be successful here, perhaps it can serve as a standard for improving other impaired watersheds along the mighty river as it flows to the Gulf of Mexico.

The greatest filter you can have to protect against polluted water is nature. If the Whiskey Creek enhancement project were approved, it would be one of the better accomplishments that might come out of this legislative session.

We applaud Ruud for putting the spotlight on it, and for her dogged push to fund it.