ST. PAUL - A bill Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, authored to put new energy and focus on protecting Minnesota’s natural wild rice resources received bipartisan approval from the Minnesota House on Monday, passing 78-45.
The legislation (H.F. 3280) directs both the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources to refocus their efforts on protecting, enhancing and, where appropriate, restoring natural wild rice beds in Minnesota.
“An important element of this legislation is providing the DNR commissioner with the authority to put together a new plan that will actually protect and enhance wild rice.” Lueck said. “State, tribal and public experts will collaborate to ensure the maximum benefit for natural wild rice is achieved through protection, restoration and enhancement activities.”
The bill also deletes the current, outdated standard. Lueck said the 45-year-old numeric sulfate standard, if applied today, would create millions of dollars in unwarranted costs to rural municipal waste water treatment plants across Minnesota.
Lueck said the Legislature has run out of patience with the MPCA, which has been working for almost eight years to replace the obsolete 1973 standard. Last January, after extensive public hearings, the MPCA’s effort was rejected by the Administrative Law Judge overseeing the administrative rule making process. Lueck said he supported the finding since the extremely complex rule proposal failed to meet the reasonableness standard required for all regulatory rules.
The MPCA then appealed that decision and, earlier this month, Chief Administrative Law Judge Tammy L. Pust again rejected the MCPA’s proposed rule. In a 16-page denial order, Chief Judge Pust wrote, “It is not difficult to understand how the public questions whether a standard that is unknowable until sufficiently sampled and calculated over a period of 10 years, which consists of an equation with mathematical terms that continue to evolve even before adoption, can constitute a rule by which their actions can be regulated.”
Lueck’s bill sets the table for the MPCA to develop a workable standard and also sharpens the Department of Natural Resources effort on protecting, enhancing and restoring natural wild rice within the Minnesota.
“The task here is to refocus on protecting wild rice by considering the hydrological, biological and physical risk to wild rice health,” Lueck said. “For far too long, we have been focused on trying to develop and apply a complex numeric sulfate standard while at the same time not giving more pragmatic approaches to protect wild rice a priority. We need to approach this task in a holistic manner using the talents of the wild rice experts at the DNR, within tribal governments and in public sector to protect this valuable resource.”
The bill now is in the hands of the Senate.