Bills nullifying wild rice protection advance at #MNLeg

SF 2983 (Eichorn – R)
HF 3280 (Lueck – R)

In 1973, Minnesota adopted a sulfate standard to protect wild rice, found by studies to grow primarily in low-sulfate waters. Sulfate pollution from iron ore mines, paper mills and wastewater plants can contaminate sediment in wild-rice growing waters, endangering wild rice stands. 

Water quality standards

To help protect Minnesota’s state grain, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) established a water quality standard of 10 mg/L sulfate in 1973.

In recent years, this standard has become contentious. In 2011, claiming that the sulfate standard was scientifically unsupported, the Legislature directed $1.5 million to research the impacts of sulfate on wild rice. They also prohibited the state from enforcing the existing standard until it was revised.

With that research now completed, the MPCA is currently in the process of developing a new sulfate rule, as directed by law.

Legislative end-run

Rather than wait for the outcome of the science-based process it demanded in 2011, the Legislature is instead aiming to nullify the existing water quality standard AND end the current rulemaking process, denying basic state protections for wild rice.

Status

The Senate version of the bill passed through several committees and will be before the Senate Finance committee Tuesday, April 10. Likewise, the House, which moved the bill through the environment and local government committees, will hear the bill next in the Ways & Means committee Monday, April 9.

Both committees are expected to pass the bills and send them to the House and Senate floors for votes very soon.

You can help!

Bad environmental bills like this one are why FMR needs your help in protecting our waters.There are two great ways you can help this session:  

• Join us on Water Action Day (May 2, 2018)

Perhaps the best way to help stop bad environmental bills this session is to join us for Water Action Day — our day of public action and advocacy to let lawmakers know we care about our water.

This all-day event will include free breakfast and morning briefings on Minnesota's water issues, followed by the #ProtectOurWater rally in the rotunda, and meetings with legislators throughout the day. You can sign up for all or part of the day, whatever works for you.

• Become a River Guardian 

Many of FMR's victories are thanks to our strong base of advocates. Sign up to become a River Guardian, and we'll email you when an important river issue arises and make it quick and easy to contact decision makers. River Guardians are also invited to special events, including happy hours, about important legislative and metro river corridor issues.