ST. PAUL – A bill Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, authored to update the state’s system of establishing water quality standards related to sulfates has received final approval from the House.
Lueck’s bill (H.F. 3280) cleared the House 79-48 Monday after a conference committee met last week to prepare the legislation for a vote on full passage. A provision in the final bill provides $500,000 for the protection, enhancement and restoration of wild rice beds. Upon Senate approval, the bill will be presented to Gov. Mark Dayton for enactment.
“This bill lets us safeguard the water quality and aquatic habitat necessary to ensure natural wild rice is protected and our wild rice beds are not impaired or degraded,” Lueck said. “We are putting the focus squarely on protecting wild rice by considering the hydrological, biological and physical risk to wild rice health.”
Lueck indicated his bill provides major improvements in how Minnesota protects wild rice. It retires an obsolete, 45-year-old numeric-based sulfate standard he said has never been enforced. Lueck also said the standard, if applied today, would heap millions of dollars in added costs on municipal waste water treatment plants across Minnesota.
On the other hand, Lueck said his proposal strengthens the process for identifying wild rice waters and provides guidance and funding to develop management practices that will, in fact, protect, enhance and restore natural wild rice beds in Minnesota.
“I agree with the most recent governor’s recent communication with me on this matter, when he indicated the old standard is not technically or economically feasible,” Lueck said. “This legislation clears the deck, allowing our municipalities, businesses, tribal governments, public experts and labor to move forward to find a workable solution on how best to protect and enhance wild rice.”