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DNR proposes using lottery money for park

Associated Press

ST. PAUL — Lottery proceeds could be used to help pay for a new state park on Lake Vermilion, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources proposed Tuesday.

The complex proposal would dedicate $6 million a year from the state’s Environmental Trust Fund. That money comes from lottery sales, and it would be used to cover the debt payments on more than $97 million in state bonds.

DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said about $48 million of the borrowed money could be used to buy and develop the 2,500 acres of potential park land from U.S. Steel. The DNR won’t know the exact price of the land until January, he said.

The other half of the borrowed funds would be used to acquire other lands across the state for use as wildlife management areas, state forests, parks and for other recreational purposes.

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While lottery proceeds have long been used to fund natural resources projects, the state has never used them to repay a loan as the DNR proposed.

"What’s new and different here is trying to be a little bit creative in how we manage the Environmental Trust Fund, to use that to pay off those future bond debts, to leverage those dollars today, put those dollars in the system today so we can go out and make major investments," Holsten said.

The commissioner said legislators will be under great pressure next session to address many state needs in a bonding bill in the wake of the I-35W bridge collapse and flooding in southeastern Minnesota. He said the plan would help the DNR reduce its borrowing request.

"They’re going to have to do some creative management and they need ideas like this to accomplish it," he said.

The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, which oversees the trust fund, is expected to decide whether to approve the DNR’s proposal by Oct. 30. The Legislature must then approve the commission’s project recommendations.

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