Skip to main content

To protect wild rice, officials want to set pollution limits on lake-by-lake basis

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A new plan has been put forward to protect one of Minnesota's most famous foods – wild rice.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency this week released long-awaited recommendations on how to limit pollution in lakes where wild rice is grown around the state.

The biggest threat to growing wild rice is having excess sulfates in waters – mineral salts which, if combined with bacteria in lake beds, can create an inhospitable environment for the grain.

Particularly at risk are areas that also have a mining industry presence, or are near municipal wastewater treatment facilities and other industrial plants, as this increases the amount of sulfates entering waterways.

So what does the MPCA want to do about it?

Well, currently Minnesota has a one-size-fits-all limit on the amount of sulfates that are allowed in a body of water, which according to the Star Tribune stands at 10 parts per million a standard that was set in 1973.

According to MPR, concerns were raised in 2010 about how diligently the MPCA was enforcing the standard, and at that time the agency began asking mining companies to document wild rice plants where they discharge water.

But the MPCA says the impact of sulfates in water on wild rice growth varies from lake to lake, and thinks each lake where significant amount of wild rice is grown should be subject to its own limit on sulfates.

They have said that some water bodies could need stricter sulfate standards as low as 0.8 parts per million, while some lakes could take up to 140 parts per million without adversely affecting wild rice, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

The MPCA wants to carry out studies of each wild rice lake over the next two years to determine a safe sulfate level for each one.

Any changes to water quality rules in Minnesota will have to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Impact on business

The MPCA's recommendations follow years of controversy over the state's wild rice-sulfate laws, which Gov. Mark Dayton this week described as "outdated" and potentially harmful to the mining industry on the Iron Range, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Environmental groups and tribal officials have been calling for the standard to be enforced by the EPA under the federal Clean Water Act, the newspaper reports, which could cost the mining industry "hundreds of millions of dollars."

The MPCA thinks its recommendation is a more comprehensive plan to protect wild rice stocks in the state, while not forcing businesses to follow rules that may not necessarily be necessary.

But while the reception from business has been one of cautious welcome, University of Minnesota Duluth wild rice researcher John Pastor told the Star Tribune the proposal is "scientifically indefensible."

He told the newspaper that conditions in wild rice waters can change from season to season, year to year, meaning any individual standards for lakes would soon be unsuitable.

Next Up

freight train railroad tracks

Man crawls to safety before train hits his stuck wheelchair

The incident happened Tuesday on Highway 169.

US Bank Stadium

Sizing up Vikings coaching candidates we know about so far

A closer look at some of the head coaching candidates interviewed by the Vikings

St. Paul police

St. Paul: Man called police to report he killed his wife

Police are also investigating a separate fatal shooting in the Frogtown neighborhood.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves survive Knicks' second-half barrage to get back to .500

Karl-Anthony Towns' lay-in helped Minnesota get a win in The Garden.

FLickr - crime scene tape do not crozz

Charges: MN teen shot mom after dispute over meth

The girl's mother said there had been a dispute over methamphetamine.

bad roads, blizzard

No travel advised: High winds, whiteout conditions in NW MN

Zero visibility in parts of greater Minnesota Tuesday night.

holy angels high school j nelson

Update: Holy Angels evacuated over bomb threat, school says

Someone left a voicemail early Tuesday suggesting there was an explosive device.

radio station, microphone

Convicted stalker charged with harassment of another DJ at The Current

He pleaded guilty to similar charges involving the DJ's colleague back in 2015.

Mall of America exterior Tyler Vigen Wikimedia COmmons

10 new shops, food stops at Mall of America

Donuts, K-fashion, model cars — the new tenants cover a lot of bases.

Gophers basketball

Gophers fall below roster minimum, postpone Penn State game

It is "due to internal COVID-19 protocols within the Golden Gopher program."

Raheem Morris

Report: Vikings request interview with Rams' Raheem Morris

Morris was once the youngest head coach in the NFL at 33 years old.

train crossing S Boardman Ave, New York Mills, Minnesota - August 2013 crop GSV

Sheriff: Drunk driver crashed trying to 'beat the train'

The BNSF train slammed into the side of the driver's car.

Related

MN's wild rice waters could get a very different pollution standard

Environmental group doesn't like MN's new proposal