[UPDATE: For a similar, but broader perspective, see Honor the Earth's September 3, 2015 Dear Governor Dayton letter.]
Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Laurentian Divide, seems to be failing more and more at managing its water treasures. In no particular order of importance or priority, here's a number of reasons, taken from news coverage in the past few years, why I think so:
(no longer) Wild & Scenic Lower St. Croix River
Photo by J. Harrington
- It took legislative action to help settle a suit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources over ground and surface water issues in White Bear Lake.
- The vast majority of the surface water in southwestern Minnesota fails to meet basic water quality standards.
- Congress created an exemption to the St. Croix Wild and Scenic Rivers designation to allow a new, high capacity bridge across the river near Stillwater to support "growth and development."
- Despite unacceptable levels of mercury poisioning of children in northern Minnesota, the state has taken a "go it alone" approach to solving the problem of mercury contamination of fish in the St. Louis River.
- Minnesota has allowed growth in the southwestern corner of the state to exceed the capacity of water supplies in the area, making it reliant on out of state water to support more growth.
- Our current governor has said that his "'most momentous, difficult and controversial decision' as governor" will be on a project that, after 10 years of study, may be using inappropriate water modeling results to determine major environmental impacts, including whether pollution will affect the BWCAW or the already polluted St. Louis River, or both.
Lake Superior at Grand Marais
Photo by J. Harrington
I see a pattern here that I don't particularly care for. Water quantity and quality issues exist all over Minnesota. I haven't yet cited the Red River flood control project, or the Lake Pepin sedimentation issues. We may have to reach California's status before we start doing better, but I hope not. Minnesota's wet left hand doesn't seem to know enough about what its wet right hand is doing. Our water management is all wet, despite having a growing stack of reports recommending how to avoid these problems, reports which we seem determined to ignore except for lip service.
- 2010 Minnesota Water Plan
- Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework; and, now,
- The Minnesota Water Management Framework
I wrote last Summer (2014) that I thought Minnesota needs less coordination and cooperation and more consolidation in its water management agencies. There are too many of they and they seem to be getting better at tripping over and/or deferring to each other. The groundwater study issue in the PolyMet EIS issue may be the most recent (until tomorrow's paper?) but it won't be the last time politicians and bureaucracy have failed Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, miles and miles of rivers and millions of residents. We need to change our agency for making decisions. Since the legislature this past session showed so much interest in telling the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency how to do its job, maybe we should make the legislature the Water Resources Agency and stop the charades.
At the ancient pond
Matsuo BashoAt the ancient pond
a frog plunges into
the sound of water
Translated by Sam Hamill
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.