File comments by Nov. 4 regarding DNR’s Poplar River decision

The Minnesota DNR yesterday afternoon issued the press release
below about the Poplar River. I’m not happy about the timing
because it missed our print deadline, and the comment period for
what this scribe considers a pretty big deal ends Friday, Nov. 4.
That means readers of next week’s Minnesota Outdoor News won’t see
this release until 90 percent of the comment period is over.
There’s no mailing address at the end, though folks who receive our
Nov. 4 edition can at least send an email to the agency.

Lutsen Ski Resort in northeastern Minnesota wants more water
from the Poplar River. The waterway currently is flowing at rates
near the cutoff for the 2011 legislative “appropriation” for the
resort. Trout guys and folks from the Minnesota Center for
Environmental Advocacy are justifiably concerned that removing more
water doesn’t exactly bode well for coldwater species. (The resort
has drawn snowmaking water from the river, which runs through the
property, for nearly 50 years.)

Bottom line, the DNR is still offering to grant a permit to keep
the snowmaking water headed up the slopes. In justifying its
decision, the DNR says there are low numbers of trout in the
Popular River and they’ll probably die anyway.

In a statement following the DNR release, Lutsen’s Charles Skinner,
co-president, said that dry weather conditions “have created
unforeseen circumstances in which the permit granted by the
legislature in June to Lutsen Mountains is insufficient.”

To Lutsen’s credit, the release said the operation considers
withdrawals from the river a short-term solution, and finding a
long-term solution to its water needs – albeit one that presumably
includes public money – is a priority.

“…we have come to realize that the broad consensus is to find a
solution that does not involve taking water from the river.

“We are therefore aggressively working on engineering and a
financing plan to secure public funding for a pipeline from Lake
Superior as our primary source. In the meantime, we will need to
continue to make withdrawals from the Poplar River. The permit
issued by the DNR is a short-term solution that is absolutely
critical for our economy, our businesses and our residents.
Broad-based support for public funding of a pipeline from Lake
Superior is essential for a long-term solution,” the release
said.

I don’t like what the DNR has decided to do here, and I don’t like
that most of my print readers won’t know to chime in until it’s
almost too late. But the miracle of the digital age is that I can
still reach lots of folks via this blog and other electronic media.
Joe Albert and I discuss it on Outdoor News Radio, which listeners
can hear statewide this weekend.

Maybe you think I’m out to lunch on my opinion on this matter. Fair
enough, but do me a favor and tell the DNR that. File your view,
wherever you fall on this issue, to publiccomment.dnr@state.mn.us
by Nov. 4.

DNR Release from Oct. 26, 2011

DNR seeking comments through Nov. 4 on permit to draw water from
Poplar River

The Minnesota DNR is seeking public comments on a proposal for a
temporary permit that would allow Lutsen Mountain Corporation to
continue to draw water from the Poplar River for its snowmaking
operation. Normally, pumping operations would be discontinued due
to the river’s low flow, but the DNR is authorized by statute to
allow exceptions under unique circumstances.

The 2011 Legislature authorized LMC to take up to 150 million
gallons of water from the Poplar River for snowmaking this fall,
but included a provision that suspends the appropriation if flows
fall below 15 cubic feet per second (cfs) for more than five
consecutive days. The flow in the river has been at or near that
threshold for weeks. A separate provision of Minnesota statutes,
however, authorizes the DNR to issue a permit beyond what is
normally allowed if there is “just cause.”

In this case, the DNR believes there is just cause to issue LMC a
permit based on the potential economic impacts to the local
community, the low numbers of trout present in the affected reach
of river, and the likelihood that some trout mortality will occur,
whether LMC temporarily appropriates water or not.

“The most important aspect of this issue is that the Poplar River
is not a long-term sustainable source of water for LMC,” explained
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “We need concurrence from LMC and
key legislators that they are committed to finding an alternate
source of water for snowmaking – probably Lake Superior – within
three years to prevent a reoccurrence of this very difficult
situation.”

According to the DNR, the average flow for the Poplar River in
November is 86 cfs. It has been hovering around 20 cfs for some
time, and will likely drop significantly during winter, when
limited water drains into the river.

The draft permit and an FAQ with additional background information
can be found at
www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/issues/poplar_river/index.html.

The public may submit comments from Oct. 26 through Nov. 4 at
publiccomment.dnr@state.mn.us.

 

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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