Much Ado About Streams

DNR will end the public status of 640 miles of streams

ST. PAUL, Minn.- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) eliminated the public status for 640 miles of streams around the state.

The decision was made after the DNR realized that they had made a procedural error back in the 1980s when first conferring public status on these streams. The error was that quite a few of the streams currently under the state’s waterway buffer laws, which applies to public but not private waterways, had falsely been designated as having been on a list of streams that the public had a chance to review in the 1980s.  The DNR felt continuing to provide these streams public protection undermined the democratic process in these types of proceedings.

Claims had been made by agricultural advocacy groups that the state’s waterway buffer laws were being applied to private, farm area drainage ditches.

However, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) has filed an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn the recent decision by the DNR, stating that the measure goes too far.  

“The DNR’s order, supposedly to correct mistakes, only made issues with the public waters map worse,” MCEA Staff Attorney Leigh Curries said in a press release. “Dozens of public waters that are not private ditches were erased incorrectly.”

“Public waters provide benefits to the public,” the press release went on, “They are protected from being filled, drained, dammed or altered without a permit. Permits protect downstream users from being adversely impacted by actions upstream. If DNR’s order is allowed to stand, these waterways could lose that protection.”

Among the waterways to lose public status is the Lost River in Red Lake County, Badger Creek  and Little Badger Creek in Blue Earth County, and a tributary of the Cannon River in Rice County. The DNR may confer public status on these waterways again, following public review.

Henry Carras