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Railway wants to drill wells in Dakota County, ship water to southwestern U.S.

But they've basically been told 'no chance' by the state of Minnesota.
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The DNR Commissioner has said there is little chance that a railway's proposal to drill two wells in Dakota County and ship 500 million gallons of groundwater a year by rail to the southwestern U.S. will get approved.

The first-of-its-kind proposal emerged on Thursday, with the Star Tribune reporting that Empire Building Investments, a part of Progressive Rail, wants to drill two wells near Lake Byllesby in Randolph.

In its application to the DNR, the company says it would then ship the water taken from the well in drought-hit areas of the southwestern United States to be used for commercial, institutional and potentially agricultural purposes.

But on Friday afternoon, the DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said she can see "virtually no scenario" in which it would be approved, as it would not be able to meet legal requirements, which includes restrictions on the Mt. Simon aquifer.

The aquifer, one of the deepest and oldest in the state, sits beneath south-central Minnesota and extends to the Twin Cities, per MPR News.

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"Under Minnesota law, the DNR regulates the use of both groundwater and surface water," Strommen said. 

"The agency must manage public water resources for the benefit of the State of Minnesota, including future generations. We must ensure that water appropriations are reasonable, practical, and adequately protect public safety and promote the public welfare.

"Based on our initial review of the Empire Builder request, we are notifying the company today that we see virtually no scenario where the DNR would grant a water appropriation permit for the project, as it does not appear it could meet applicable statutory requirements, including significant restrictions on use of the Mt. Simon aquifer."

The Star Tribune notes that news of the proposal drew quick condemnation from Dakota County leaders and environmental officials.

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