Eye On Mining: Wild rice legislation makes it to Dayton’s desk

More than a decade of back and forth has led to a bipartisan passing of a new wild rice bill.

Protecting wild rice waters is an issue that spans the entire state of Minnesota. From tribal governments, to industries like mining and power, to wastewater treatment facilities, the future of wild rice sulfate standards impacts a diverse group of people. 

Earlier this month Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the "Wild Rice Bill" which would have removed the current water quality standard meant to protect wild rice. But on Sunday, the House and Senate came to an agreement and passed a new version of the bill.

The legislation creates what lawmakers call a "work group" made up of experts and stakeholders. 
It would also provide funding to focus on science-based solutions to enhance the wild rice habitat in Minnesota. 

According to the Iron Mining Association, this legislation made it to Governor Dayton’s desk because of the support from a diverse group of people across Minnesota who want a voice in the future of wild rice.

"We tried very hard to come to resolution and compromise with all the stakeholders to come to an agreement about what a work group should look like, to evaluate what it is that is impacting wild rice, and really will protect it in the long-term," said Kelsey Johnson, President of Iron Mining Association.

The current standard, set in 1973, has never been enforced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Johnson said that standard would remain in place but still unenforced under the new legislation. 

The previous bill nullified the current standard which was one of the reasons it was vetoed by Governor Dayton. Johnson said she believes the new legislation will address the Governor’s concerns and fulfill his requirements.

"We really crafted that legislation based on his veto letter. And we’re hoping that based on what we heard initially that this will be the answer that he’s looking for."

Dayton will have the final say on the matter.
He has two weeks to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.
 

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