Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Is the PolyMet EIS just part of a bigger problem?

[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
(no longer) Wild & Scenic Lower St. Croix River
Photo by J. Harrington


Lake Superior at Grand Marais
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.

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 Basho

At the ancient pond
a frog plunges into
the sound of water

Translated by Sam Hamill


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