ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill Wednesday that he said would have unlawfully undermined Minnesota’s ability to enforce its water quality standard for protecting wild rice.
Dayton, who vetoed a similar bill earlier, said in a letter to House Speaker Kurt Daudt that the revised version represented “some progress,” but not enough.
The bills stemmed from haggling over a largely unenforced 1973 state law that limits sulfate discharges into waters where wild rice grows to 10 milligrams per liter. Supporters argued that the standard is outdated and that complying with it would cost mining companies and wastewater treatment systems hundreds of millions of dollars. Dayton said earlier this month that he recognized it’s not technically or economically feasible for the mining industry or municipalities to comply with the standard.
Dayton said the new version would have given a work group authority to take over the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s responsibilities under state and federal law for protecting wild rice, and that such a delegation of authority would have violated the federal Clean Water Act and offended Native Americans who consider wild rice central to their culture.
Instead, Dayton announced a task force that will review the scientific literature and make practical recommendations on protecting and restoring wild rice. He also instructed the state pollution control agency to ensure that no existing facility with permits will be required to install “unaffordable” water treatment systems to meet the existing standard.