New wild rice recommendations as clear as mud

A new formula for determining how to protect wild rice may not make it off the drawing board. The MPCA hastily revealed the formula after the governor made comments that the agency was using obsolete science.
“If the standard is obsolete and it’s not validated by current science and information, then to stick with it and close down an industry isn’t really well advised,” Dayton said to MPR.
One guess what industry he’s referring to. If you guessed mining, give yourself five points. If you realize that wild rice is being used as the spotted owl in stopping mining in Minnesota, give yourself another five points. You aced the test.
The MPCA is in a lose-lose situation trying to come up with a standard that protects wild rice and doesn’t cost municipalities and mining companies billions of dollars.
And municipalities have as much or more to lose here in this debate. There are wastewater plants operating today that don’t meet the current standard and likely never could without spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Does that mean wild rice is about to disappear from the planet? Far from it. This is more scare tactics and mudslinging from the anti-mining crowd. The problem is they are losing the mainstream, common sense crowd. The MPCA is about to end up in the same boat.
The MPCA’s new approach would come up with a different level for each of 1,300 (and counting) bodies of water in the state of Minnesota. This sounds more like a jobs plan that it does a regulation.
The formula would include the amount of iron and organic carbon in a lake or river’s sediment to come up with a sulfate concentration level. Samples would be taken to determine if the discharge from a city sewer plant or a mining operation needs to be at a very low or higher level of sulfates.
Keep in mind that the current state standard as it relates to wild rice is 10 milligrams of sulfate per liter of water. Drinking water standards allow for up to 250 milligrams per liter.
Even if you forget about PolyMet and Twin Metals, U.S. Steel’s Minntac plant would faced hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades to meet the current standard which has been in place since 1973 but apparently rarely if ever has been enforced.
It may take the MPCA two years (or many more if there are lawsuits filed) to bring this new standard to fruition. But since both sides appear to be finding flaws with it, the MPCA may have to go back to the drawing board.
In the meantime, there are bills in the Legislature right now to prevent the MPCA from enforcing a sulfate standard for wild rice until the rulemaking is complete.
What’s clear to us is the new recommendations are as clear as mud and unlikely to pass the smell test. And just to make this even more absurd, we’ll throw in a caveat that reminds us of the feds trying to define the word “feasible” in relation to BWCA motor portages.
“Wild rice water means a surface water of the state that contains a self- perpetuating population of wild rice plants, either currently present or that have been present in the given water body since November 28, 1975.”
That’s right, Nov. 28, 1975. Because if wild rice was present before that it doesn’t count. If that isn’t clear as mud we don’t know what is.