This week I moved bipartisan legislation forward to put new energy into protecting Minnesota’s natural wild rice. It is time to refocus on the hydrological, biological and physical risks to wild rice health.
The legislation would retire an obsolete numeric-based sulfate standard and refocus on the water quality and aquatic habitat necessary to ensure natural wild rice is not impaired.
There is agreement that the current numeric sulfate standard is obsolete and has not protected wild rice. Over the past eight years the MPCA has been unsuccessful in replacing that standard. The most recent effort was rejected by Minnesota’s Administrative Law Court.
The irony of this failed effort is the original standard has never been enforced, despite having been on the books for over 45 years. The existing rule would limit sulfate discharges into waters that contain wild rice to 10 milligrams per liter, commonly referred to as 10 parts per million. To give this context the standard for sulfate in drinking water is 250 parts per million.
Modern day science has debunked the 10 ppm sulfate standard. To further complicate matters, if the obsolete rule was ever applied it would force new unwarranted costs on our rural municipal waste water treatment plants. Every small city in our area would likely be impacted at some point.
Example costs include our neighbor to the southwest the City of Foley, at about $10–15 million to upgrade their waste water treatment plant. For the extensive Western Lake Superior Sanitary District treatment system upgrading is estimated to cost an astounding $500 million dollars. That system serves 17 communities including Duluth, Cloquet and the north shore communities.
Our small cities in District 10B including; Tamarack, McGregor, East Lake, Hill City, Aitkin, Deerwood, Crosby, Ironton, Cuyuna, Trommald, Riverton, Emily, Crosslake, McGrath, Garrison and Fort Ripley should not be saddled with building new systems or upgrading existing systems to meet a standard that current science does not support.
While some suggest that retiring the obsolete sulfate standard reduces protection of wild rice, I disagree, the way forward is to approach this in a holistic manner using the talents of the wild rice experts at the DNR, within tribal governments and public sector to protect this valuable resource for the generations to come.
We continue to work on school safety issues, including reviewing a $405,000 investment in the School Safety Center, part of the state’s Emergency Management Division, as well as a variety of other school safety related bills are being heard in the appropriate committees.
The Legislature is working with the governor’s office on our troubled vehicle licensing and registration system (MNLARS). I continue to receive constituent concerns with the MNLARS system. The legislature has created a webpage to help expedite getting help, please don’t hesitate to also relay those concerns directly to that website by clicking here.
Please be safe and don’t forget to spring forward to daylight savings time this weekend.