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‘Wild Rice’ bill needs a veto

HF 3422 — the “Wild Rice” bill — proposes limiting and even eliminating protections for what some consider to be Minnesota’s most iconic grain.

Although Gov. Dayton vetoed an earlier version of the bill (Thank you, governor!), a revision snuck through the final hours of the legislative session and is now on the governor’s desk (he has two weeks to act on it). Far from being a “peace in the valley” compromise, this revised language does not represent a consensus. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, environmental groups, and several tribal nations remain opposed.

Not only is the new version no better than the vetoed one, it actually calls for allowing the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mines to discharge untreated water that contains sulfates. Not only is this a big give-away to the sulfide mining industry, it is also a clear violation of the Clean Water Act. (Learn more about sulfates and wild rice.)

What can you do to help? Contact Gov. Dayton (call 800-657-3716 or visit his contact page) to thank him for his previous veto of this bill and encourage him to veto this version, too.

Other HF3422 highlights:

  • Prohibiting protection of wild rice growing in most waters in Minnesota until they can be officially listed as a Wild Rice Water. Only 24 waters are currently listed as Wild Rice Waters, though the MPCA, DNR, and tribes have identified 1,300-1,600 such waters that deserve protection from sulfate pollution. Blocking the listing of wild rice waters violates the Clean Water Act.
  • Requiring an exhaustive list of scientific information to be gathered and analyzed for each water body before it can be listed as a Wild Rice Water (thus earning protection under the law), but the bill provides $0 for this work, effectively blocking any progress in gathering and analyzing such information.
  • Prohibiting protection of our existing Wild Rice Waters until “cost-effective treatment technology is available,” and although it requires evaluating new technologies for sulfate control every two years, no money will be appropriated to advance such research.
  • Allowing new industries such as PolyMet, Twin Metals or other sulfide ore mines to add sulfate pollution to our waters without implementing any technologies that require investment to control sulfides. This is a big step backward and a violation of the Clean Water Act. Under current law, future dischargers upstream of Wild Rice Waters would have to control their sulfates.
  • Creating an unbalanced membership in the Wild Rice Work Group that is heavily biased towards industry. Additionally, the work group is encouraged to usurp MPCA’s role, overlook science, and narrow the beneficial uses of wild rice.
  • Not requiring formal consultation with tribal nations, as tribes had requested.
  • Creating endless lack of enforcement, with no sunset or deadline.

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