LEECH LAKE, Minn.-The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe weighed in Monday, March 19, on two bills at the Minnesota Legislature that would eliminate a state standard regulating the amount of sulfate allowed in wild rice waters.
In a letter to Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, and Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, the band's Executive Director Robert Budreau Jr. also objected to Minnesota's current listing of wild rice water.
"To repeal legislation that ensures and maintains a level of sulfate entering our waters is illegal as well as negligent," Budreau wrote. "Before the State considers throwing out water quality regulations in order to satisfy industry or commerce, we urge the State to honor the human rights of the Ojibwe Nations and people and treat us with respect."
The standard has been on the books-but not enforced-since 1973, and was enacted to protect wild rice. Backers of the bill say there is no proof that the standard is valid, with Sen. David Tomassion, D-Chisholm, expressing a reluctance to risk jobs at taconite mines with a standard "that we have no idea what it will do."
In his letter Budreau wrote that, when legislators ask if the band was consulted on the legislation, Lueck and Eichorn should "tell them no."
"Of immediate concern is the State's attempt to throw out protective water quality standards and the arbitrary list of wild rice waters through the actions of HF3280 and SF2983," he wrote. "Just because Minnesota doesn't enforce its own regulatory standard doesn't make it right or safe to repeal it with no replacement."
On Tuesday, a Senate committee followed a House committee in supporting the elimination of the standard.