Make Sure NEW Rules Broadly Define “Wild Rice Waters” to Protect Natural Wild Rice from Sulfate Pollution
Northern Minnesota’s waters are naturally low in sulfates, which is why wild rice was historically abundant across our region. To protect natural wild rice, a Minnesota rule was enacted in 1973 limiting sulfates in wild rice waters to 10 milligrams per liter, a level low enough to sustain wild rice stands and the fish, waterfowl and mammals that depend on this natural grain.
During the past several decades, Minnesota regulators haven’t consistently enforced the wild rice sulfate water quality standard. As a result, waters located downstream of taconite mining tailings basins and waste rock piles have become contaminated with sulfate pollution. Wild rice beds have suffered. Sulfide mining poses even a greater threat to natural wild rice.
The mining industry, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and other sulfate dischargers are now doing everything they can to weaken or eliminate the wild rice sulfate standard and prevent its enforcement to protect natural stands of wild rice. In the spring of 2011, they lobbied the Minnesota Legislature to eliminate or weaken the 10 milligrams per liter limit on sulfate pollution in wild rice waters. They did not succeed -- because the federal Clean Water Act only allows states to weaken water quality standards if there is reliable scientific information showing that the resource would not be degraded if the standard changed.
These polluters now are lobbying the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in the administrative rulemaking process to weaken the wild rice standard and restrict the number of waters and natural wild rice stands to which it applies.
In the fall of 2012, the MPCA will propose a new rule definition to explain which wild rice waters will be protected from excessive sulfate pollution.
Your voice is needed. Send an email now to the MPCA, asking that the new rulemaking protect natural wild rice growing in waters throughout Minnesota.