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Reader's View: After another Sunshine Week, still no DNR data

In the March 12 News Tribune, former St. Cloud (Minn.) Times Executive Editor John Bodette gave compelling reasons why citizens need to demand access to public information from government. His "Journalist's View" commentary was headlined, "Strengthen community by insisting on government transparency." In recognition of Sunshine Week, Bodette helped guide readers through the Minnesota Data Practices Act (Minnesota Statute Chapter 13).

When I was a state employee, I was expected to provide public data to requesters. Now, as a citizen, I can unequivocally say that obtaining information from the government can depend on what you ask for and whether the state agency wants you to have what it is hiding.

Since retirement, I doggedly have pursued information about the "Upstream Meander Demonstration Project" on the Dark River, north of Chisholm. In other opinion letters, I alleged that Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service staffers fraudulently trespassed on private property with a backhoe and removed the landowner's stream riffle without his knowledge. I further argued that the action of the backhoe in 2005 resulted in accelerating the stream flow and effectively draining the wetlands on the private property. I also wrote that the landowner's grandfather homesteaded the land in 1908, that the Dark River runs through 600 feet of the property, and that it's seven miles downstream of the Minntac tailings basin discharge.

Since retirement, I've submitted 28 mostly unmet requests for publicly paid-for data under Minnesota Statute Chapter 13 in an attempt to prove my allegations and to document what I've written in News Tribune opinion letters. However, after another Sunshine Week, I can unequivocally say the DNR is a very secretive agency when it wants to hide something as seemingly simple as excavating a stream riffle, which resulted in accelerating stream flows, effectively draining river wetlands on the Dark River.

David G. Holmbeck

Grand Rapids

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