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Minnesota wild rice protections rolled back by new bills

Northern Minnesota lawmakers have introduced a second round of legislation to roll back or thwart water quality protections for wild rice in an effort to protect the taconite iron ore mining industry.

Northern Minnesota lawmakers have introduced a second round of legislation to roll back or thwart water quality protections for wild rice in an effort to protect the taconite iron ore mining industry.

The bill was introduced this week in the Senate while its House version, HF 853, was introduced last week.

The bill would prohibit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from listing wild rice waters and applying the state's 40-year-old sulfate standard for wild rice until that standard is upheld by a current scientific review and re-adopted by the agency.

The bill specifically prevents the PCA from including the 10 parts-per-million sulfate standard to protect wild rice in any industrial permit issued until the ongoing sulfate study and reassessment is complete.

The legislation also calls for a cost-benefit analysis for most new water-quality rules. The bill specifically lists state standards for suspended solids, nutrients, chlorides and nitrates as well as sulfate.

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A companion bill would require independent peer review of any regulation developed by a state agency dealing with water quality.

“The bills are not consistent with the Clean Water Act, and would face certain review by the EPA,” said Fond du Lac Chairwoman Karen Diver. Wild rice is a key staple for the reservation and an integral part of the Band’s tribal traditions.  

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