"MINNEAPOLIS — An administrative law judge has rejected an attempt by regulators to change Minnesota’s water quality standard for protecting wild rice, saying the proposal violates federal and state law and puts an unfair burden on Native Americans who harvest wild rice for food.
In a report released Thursday, Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency failed to justify changing the state’s current standard, which limits discharges of sulfates into waters where wild rice grows to 10 milligrams per liter. The agency proposed to replace the flat limit with a complex formula tailored to the chemistry of specific lakes and streams that would allow higher sulfate discharges in many cases. The proposal also included a list of 1,300 waters where the new standard would apply.
The MPCA’s proposal upset all sides in the long-running debate — environmentalists and the state’s Ojibwe tribes on one hand, and mining companies and wastewater treatment plant operators on the other. The environmental groups and tribes said the current standard would provide better protection for wild rice stands, while the industrial dischargers wanted the old standard dropped. Both sides were sharply critical of the science behind the proposed new standard."