Public input sought on proposed groundwater protection rule
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) released the proposed Groundwater Protection Rule. The rule will be published in the State Register on April 30. An 80-day public comment period on the rule will follow.
The goal of the Groundwater Protection Rule is to work with local farmers to reduce elevated nitrate levels in groundwater and ensure Minnesota residents have clean, safe and reliable drinking water supplies.
Nitrate is one of the most common contaminants in Minnesota's groundwater. Elevated nitrate levels in drinking water can pose serious health concerns for humans. The proposed rule, which is based on the input of the farmers and landowners who the rule would apply to, would regulate the use of nitrogen fertilizer in areas of the state where soils are prone to leaching and where drinking water supplies are threatened.
"When I traveled the state last summer to hear farmers' concerns, I promised the Groundwater Protection Rule would have a healthy dose of common sense. I think we have achieved that," said MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson. "I encourage anyone with interest in the rule to provide their feedback through the rule-making process. In an effort to ensure all stakeholders have the opportunity to have their voices heard, we have extended the traditional 30-day public comment period by 50 days and will hold an 80-day public comment period."
The MDA informally published a draft of the Groundwater Protection Rule in the summer of 2017, and provided an opportunity for public comment to help shape the proposed rule. The MDA received more than 820 written comments regarding the rule, and over 1,000 farmers, landowners and other Minnesotans attended a total of 17 public meetings.
Public comments on the Groundwater Protection Rule can be made on the Office of Administrative Hearings website at www.mn.gov/oah.
In May and June, the MDA will hold information sessions on the draft Groundwater Protection Rule and how to participate in the rulemaking process.
In the fall 2018, the Office of Administrative Hearings reviews the comments and drafts a report approving, approving in part or disapproving the proposed rule.
In December, the MDA submits the final Groundwater Protection Rule to the Governor for signature.
The Groundwater Protection Rule is part of the state's overall Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) which was developed with broad stakeholder input over a five year period and implemented in 2015. More information on the rule and the NFMP is available at www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr.