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S.F. No. 2983 - Wild rice waters findings and listing of waters; nullifying and restricting application of water quality standards (First Engrossment)
 
Author: Senator Justin D. Eichorn
 
Prepared By: Ben Stanley, Senate Counsel (651/296-4793)
 
Date: March 22, 2018



 

Background: In 1973, Minnesota adopted the current water quality sulfate standard of ten milligrams per liter in water used for the production of wild rice. Widespread perception that the underlying scientific basis of the rule was inadequate led to calls for its revision. In 2015, the legislature mandated that the rule be revised to incorporate the latest research and provided that until this was done the Pollution Control Agency could not require wastewater permittees to spend money to implement sulfate treatment technologies or other forms of sulfate mitigation and could not list additional waters as impaired for sulfate. The legislature instructed the agency to complete the required revisions by January 15, 2018, but this deadline was subsequently changed to January 15, 2019. In accordance with this directive, the Pollution Control Agency proposed the adoption of new rules that would have used an equation to determine the maximum level of sulfate that each body of water could tolerably sustain. This proposed rule was disapproved by the chief administrative law judge in January of 2018.

Section 1 [Wild Rice Water Quality Standards] Repeals the deadline by which the Pollution Control Agency was to have completed revising its sulfate water quality standard.

Section 2 [Legislative Findings] Makes various legislative findings related to wild rice.

Section 3 [Water Quality Standards for Sulfate; Rulemaking] Prohibits the Pollution Control Agency from adopting or implementing any of the revisions that were disapproved by the chief administrative law judge. This section also clarifies that the PCA continues to have authority to adopt sulfate water quality standards if it goes through the full rulemaking process again.

Section 4 [Identification and Listing of Wild-Rice Waters] Authorizes the Pollution Control Agency to continue to identify waters whose quality and aquatic habitat are capable of supporting wild rice. The agency is prohibited from doing so, however, until it establishes through rulemaking the criteria it will use to identify those waters.

Section 5 [Application of Water Quality Standard for Wild-Rice Waters] Prohibits the Pollution Control Agency from applying the existing 1973 sulfate standard when issuing, modifying, or renewing NPDES/SDS permits.

Section 6 [Application of Equation-Based Water Quality Standard for Wild-Rice Waters] Prohibits the Pollution Control Agency from applying the disapproved equation-based sulfate standard when issuing, modifying, or renewing NPDES/SDS permits.

Section 7 [Application of Water Quality Standards; Irrigation] Prohibits the Pollution Control Agency from applying a water quality standard to water used for irrigation unless failure to do so would result in significant damage to crops or vegetation.

Section 8 [Nullification of Water Quality Standard for Sulfate in Wild-Rice Waters] Nullifies the existing numeric sulfate standard.

Section 9 [Wild Rice Work Group] Appropriates $50,000 to the commissioner of natural resources from the heritage enhancement account in the game and fish fund for a wild rice work group.

 
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