Native Issues in the Halls of Government


Update on wild rice and sulfates

As I wrote in this column last month, some Minnesota lawmakers are intent on throwing out a section of environmental law that protects wild rice waters, in order to ease the way for copper-nickel mining in the northeastern part of the state.

The omnibus environmental finance bill was reported out of conference committee in May, with a provision that would have suspended the "standard for sulfate for class 4 waters," pending the completion of a $1 million study to determine "water quality standards for waters containing natural beds of wild rice."

However, the big environment, energy and natural resources finances bill (HF 1010) – with the "kill the wild rice" provision (Art. 4, Sec. 47) – was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 24. He vetoed all the budget bills passed out of the Republican-controlled Legislature, which now must negotiate a way out of the budget mess or state government will shut down in July.

In any case, there is still time to lobby the governor about the benighted proposal to lift the rule regulating sulfate levels in wild rice waters. Perhaps small bags of Minnesota wild rice (the official state grain) could be sent to the governor’s office, with a note reminding him that changing scientifically valid environmental laws will irreparably damage wild rice beds. Write to: Gov. Mark Dayton, 130 State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.