An October 31 story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune says, "Railway proposes shipping 500 million gallons of Minnesota water a year to the Southwest. ... [The railway] wants to drill two wells on a 6.2-acre parcel the company owns in Randolph, within a mile of Lake Byllesby in the Cannon River watershed. The wells together would pump up to 6,000 gallons of water per minute, which would double the amount of water that’s currently extracted annually from area wells by farmers and residents.
The water would be shipped by rail to communities near the Colorado River, county officials said. The application says the water would be used for commercial and institutional purposes, though Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik said he had heard it was intended for agricultural use in southwestern Colorado."
This troubling withdrawal for which a preliminary permit has been sought could be repeated in water-rich areas across the Midwest. The Great Lakes Compact protects the Great Lakes from water withdrawals, but there is no such compact for the other surface- and ground-water in the Midwest. Is it time for this to change? This excellent blog post by Matt Doll of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership suggests that a compact be formed to protect the waters of the Mississippi Basin and other Midwestern waters from inter-basin transfer. LWV UMRR will provide updates on this project and any progress toward protection in future posts.
Update: In a November 2, 2019, article in the Star Tribune, Minnesota DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen says that there's 'virtually no scenario' in which this project would be permitted in Minnesota. This is because the project was to take water from the Mt. Simon Hinckly aquifer, a resource protected in statute for the purpose of drinking water for the people of Minnesota.
"State officials said Friday that existing protections of the Mount Simon-Hinckley aquifer made it highly unlikely that Empire Building’s project could go forward. State law restricts use of the aquifer to potable uses, and it can only be drawn from if there are no other feasible sources, said Randall Doneen, the conservation assistance and regulations section manager of the DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources Division.The protections were put in place for future generations because the aquifer is very old and takes a long time to recharge, Doneen said. Another law cites specific criteria for diverting water out of state, but doesn’t forbid it.
The amount of water the company wants to move also would trigger an environmental review, the DNR said."
While this project seems to have come to an unfullfilled end, there will likely be more projects like this setting their sights on Minnesota water. Watch this blog for information if that happens.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region