MPCA to withdraw wild rice state rulemaking

Published 7:26 pm Friday, April 27, 2018

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is withdrawing the wild rice rule from the rulemaking process it has been in for nearly a year.

“We’ve heard many, many voices, including the administrative law judge on this topic, and the message is clear,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. “Although the science is accurate, when it comes to how best to apply the science and affordably implement the rule, we still have more work to do. So, the MPCA will withdraw it from the rulemaking process. We look forward to working with legislators over the next three weeks to determine an alternative path forward.”

Recent findings by an administrative law judge and the ongoing expressions of concern from all sides led the agency to reevaluate its plans, according to Stine. The agency engaged Minnesota Native American tribes, elected officials, businesses and municipal wastewater systems that may be impacted by the rule, and also received thousands of comments from environmental advocacy groups, other stakeholders and the public. However, the MPCA concluded it was time to withdraw the proposed rule to allow for more work on the implementation process.

Email newsletter signup

Wild rice is an important part of the ecosystem in many Minnesota lakes and streams, according to the press release. Wild rice has strong cultural significance and use to many Minnesotans, and is an important economic resource to those who harvest and market it.

In 1973, Minnesota adopted a sulfate standard to protect wild rice based on studies showing wild rice was found primarily in low sulfate waters. The MPCA and many other organizations and individuals have been working on revising and updating this standard for several years.

In 2011, the Minnesota Legislature directed the MPCA to conduct research on the effects of sulfate and other substances on the growth of wild rice. The research was intended to inform an evaluation of the existing wild rice sulfate standard.

After extensive research, data analysis and discussions, the MPCA proposed changes in fall 2017 to the water quality standard designed to protect wild rice from adverse impacts due to sulfate pollution. During the last year, the draft rule went through a public notice and comment period. The MPCA modified its proposal based on that public input, before forwarding the updated draft wild rice rule to an administrative law judge with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings.