The Minnesota Senate voted 38-28 Monday to nullify a water quality standard that’s meant to protect wild rice, a food central to the culture and diet of the region’s Ojibwe Indians.
But senators also voted to add $500,000 for restoration work to the bill, which passed the House 78-45 last week, so the legislation will have to go back to the House before it goes to Gov. Mark Dayton. The governor has not publicly said whether he’ll sign or veto the measure. His spokesman, Sam Fettig, said Dayton was still reviewing the bill.
A 1973 state law that went unenforced until recently, when the debate over mining in northeastern Minnesota heated up, limits sulfate discharges into waters where wild rice grows to 10 milligrams per liter. Sponsors of the legislation said the standard is based on outdated science from the 1940s and that it would cost mining companies and municipal wastewater treatment plants hundreds of millions of dollars to comply.